Faculty members gathered in solidarity with students on the Diag Tuesday morning in response to racially charged messages found on campus over the past week.
The gathering, which was organized by University of Michigan Provost Martha Pollack, invited faculty to stand for 15 minutes in silence to protest against what organizers called messages of hate speech, aiming to demonstrate these messages are not reflective of the University's ideals.
“As a campus we have been working for a whole year to address issues of diversity, equality and inclusion,” Pollack said. “Unfortunately, within the past week we have seen these horrible displays of hatred and it has really saddened and angered many of us. We wanted to publicly show our support for our students and show that hatred has no place on this campus.”
Posters found around campus Monday included anti-Black, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ sentiments. Other posters, distributed last week, included “reasons why women shouldn’t date Black men” and explanations of “race differences in intelligence.”
Their discovery came amid preparations for the launch of the University's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategic plan, a year-long initiative started by University President Mark Schlissel last September and slated to be revealed Thursday.
Pollack began the gathering by thanking the more than 100 faculty members in attendance and encouraging more action within the community.
“We’re going to need to work together on this in the days and weeks to come,” Pollack said. “We are going to need to support our students. We are going to need to support our staff. We are going to need to support each other. We cannot allow hatred to continue on this campus.”
Soon after her opening remarks, faculty began to chant “spread ideas, not hate.” The same sentiment was stated on posters handed out at the beginning of the stand.
George Shirley, Music, Theatre & Dance professor, began the moment of silence as the chant dispersed, and reinforced the effectiveness of silent protest to the crowd.
“One of the most powerful things we can do in this place, is to observe a moment of silence for those who have been victims of hatred and violence,” Shirley said.
Nursing Prof. Patricia Coleman-Burns said faculty wanted to show they stand with affected students. She said the recent acts of hatred do not align with the goals she has for the University.
“We stand as a community, with our core values, with our beliefs in social justice, and our long history of standing for justice.”
The gathering attracted faculty from all areas of the University. Faculty from the Department of Classical Studies held signs with the Latin word for hate, “odium,” crossed out. Classical Studies Prof. Sara Forsdyke tailored the signs to specifically indicate her department’s stand.
“They are indications of our dismay at recent events, and we used Latin for 'hate,' ” Forsdyke said. “The idea is to ban hatred of all kinds.”
Thomas Choi, research technician in the Department of Psychology, said he attended the gathering not only in response to the racially charged issues, but to combat anti-feminist messages as well.
“Anti-feminist sentiments have been circulating around campus, and that is a part of this stand as well,” Choi said.
The faculty plans to continue to combat hatred on campus. Thursday will announce the diversity strategic plan which will involve many new initiatives. Educational events and seminars are also being organized for the coming weeks and months. Pollack reiterated that their efforts are not over.
“We want this to be a place that makes the world better,” Pollack said. “We want to be a place that is welcoming, fair and inclusive. We do not tolerate hate.”