About 400 University of Michigan Housing residential advisers, peer academic success specialists, diversity peer educators and other staff members participated in three collaborative marches across Central Campus, North Campus and the Hill Neighborhood Monday evening.
March participants walked through the community centers of every campus dorm in a stance of solidarity for dorm residents in light of the anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ and anti-Islam posters found in Mason and Haven Halls and current discussions surrounding the release of University President Mark Schlissel’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Plan earlier this month.
Participants walked from dorm to dorm, holding signs and chanting “You belong here.”
LSA senior Kim Ellsworth, community center manager for West Quad Residence Hall, said the march was organized in a collaborative effort for dorm residents to feel more included on campus, she noted that residential life had been raised as an issue in community discussions held by the University around the DEI plan.
“We heard during the open forums of President Schlissel that students couldn’t express (their feelings) and they weren’t feeling safe in the residence halls, so we wanted to come together as a res staff to show that we’re a physical presence in the halls and on campus and show that we stand with our residents and that they belong here in our communities,” Ellsworth said.
Stressing the importance of visibility, Ellsworth said University Housing was not asking for an administrative response, but rather was working in support of their diversity strategies.
“One of the core values of Housing and of the University is to make this be a diverse and inclusive space for all residents because this is their home, and when they’re not in class, they’re at home,” Ellsworth said. “So it’s really important for us to show support for them; it’s important that we have a physical presence and we’re doing the most we can to outreach to all of our res staff and all of our residents.”
Business graduate student Zelin Wang, a residential staff coordinator, said the event was organized last week in a University Housing meeting with the goal of being timely, active and engaging for residence hall staff to connect with residents.
“We’re responding to a lot of the events on campus that have been happening recently with the flyering,” Wang said. “Also, a lot of the political climate nationally is also making a lot of our residents feel unwelcome and not necessarily accepted here. With any larger organization like University Housing it can be easy to get bogged down or not necessarily know how to meet the demands in a timely fashion, and for this event we really wanted to act as swiftly as possible.”
LSA junior Kate Vogel, residential staff coordinator at Martha Cook Residence Hall, said she felt the event went well and hopes her residents feel a safe sense of community.
“First and foremost, we are here for our residents,” Vogel said. “We as representatives of Housing wanted to find a way that would let all of our residents in all of the dorms on campus to know that we are here to support them and all of the different identities and diversity within our campus in light of recent campus events.”
“In times like this, it’s so important not to stay silent and to come together,” Vogel said.
Event organizers said they were not sure if there would be similar marches in the future.