The University of Michigan’s Students of Color Liberation Front — a coalition of racial/ethnic justice organizations — released a 15-page document of demands Monday calling on the University to take concrete steps to address and dismantle racism on campus. Almost 100 community members have signed in support of the statement by time of publication.
The SoC LF is made up of the Black Student Union, United Asian American Organizations, La Casa, Arab Student Association, Native American Student Association, the Student Community of Progressive Empowerment and Students Allied for Freedom and Equality.
The demands cover a wide range of issues, some new and many longtime demands from each of these organizations. The goal of these demands is to improve the experiences of students, faculty and staff of color on campus while positively impacting the entire U-M community, the statement said.
Some of the demands call on the University to support the leadership of racial justice organizations on campus in their work. This includes the Office of Student Life giving each board member of the organizations $1,500 in funding starting this semester, as well as offering other sustainable funding models particularly for Arab Student Association. The statement also asks that student leaders from SoC LF member organizations be able to recommend candidates to fill administrative positions, particularly those that impact students of color on campus.
Some of the demands pertain to academics at the University: they ask the University to decolonize its curriculums, echoing sentiments from last semester’s United Statement; reassess the Race and Ethnicity requirement; and provide more support for faculty of color.
One category of demands are increasing staff for students of color in key support areas, such as Counseling and Psychological Services — particularly for Indigenous, LGBTQ+ and/or undocumented students — as well as at the Spectrum Center.
Other demands ask for making Indigenous People’s Day a U-M holiday, abolishing the Office of Enrollment Management’s 40-day clause for in-state tuition and disaggregating Asian/Pacific Islander American data for climate surveys. The latter two have been long-time asks of SCOPE, the organization advocating for undocumented students on campus, and AAPI groups, respectively. Additionally, the demands include mandating that Student Legal Services provide training for Arab/Palestine student activists and that the University commit to transparency regarding secret societies’ access to administrative resources, among many other asks.
LSA junior Rebeca Yanes, external director of La Casa, wrote in an email to The Michigan Daily that these demands are empowering because they encourage students of color to actively participate in discussions about anti-racism.
“The Students of Color Liberation Front, along with the collective leadership and membership of the organizations that make it up, should be regarded as stakeholders in conversations about anti-racism on campus,” Yanes wrote. “I believe that University leadership should equally and meaningfully consult all the demands if they seek to create a truly anti-racist campus.”
Yanes also wrote that the power of these demands lies in the collective action of these different organizations to make campus better for all students.
“As the Students of Color Liberation Front, we are a united front, equally invested in the empowerment of each other’s communities and demands for University leadership,” Yanes wrote. “Each demand is made as equally valuable and significant in the University’s work that impacts students of color.”
The executive board of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality wrote in a statement to The Daily that SoC LF is a platform for people of color to collectively address racism at the University, especially after members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization, faculty and undergraduate students called for demilitarization and diversion of funds from local and campus police during their strike last semester.
The demands include that the University cut all ties with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Ann Arbor Police Department, commit to investigating alternatives to police intervention and reexamine how the University currently utilizes alternative methods to policing. The statement writes that these demands are non-negotiable.
“Accordingly, these action items will cultivate a safe campus climate for all students,” the demands read. “Especially Black and Brown students who are disproportionately placed at risk when the University relies heavily on police presence on campus.”
These demands followed a summer of protests to end police brutality. In response to GEO’s anti-policing demands, the University created the U-M task force on public safety to evaluate the operations of the Division of Public Safety and Security and recommend improvements, though a member of the task force told The Daily the group is set on police reform.
The demilitarization demands also arose out of the University’s choice to introduce — and soon after repeal — the controversial Michigan Ambassadors program, which had armed police officers walking around campus to monitor student behavior during the pandemic. Many racial and ethnic justice organizations said they were not consulted about the creation of the Michigan Ambassadors program.
“SoC LF is a coalition space made up of various racial justice organizations that have had existing relationships, but our organizations came together under this name in response to the University’s decisions regarding policing last semester, and the lack of consultation with our organizations,” the statement reads. “In response, our coalition banded together to resist shallow consultation of students of color, and over the course of the last few months, developed these demands for this anti-racist vision.”
Outreach to prospective students of color
The demands also call on the University to restructure outreach initiatives to underrepresented students of color. In their statement, SoC LF said this is a necessary step toward creating an equitable campus.
The steps for achieving this include increasing the population of staff who can speak to experiences of students of color in the Office of Financial Aid, meeting the 10% Black student enrollment benchmark as originally demanded by the Black Action Movement and hiring full-time staff members who are well-versed in experiences of people of color to coordinate the 2006 Proposal 2 adherent recruitment strategies.
It also asks the University to recommit the Comprehensive Studies Program to its original purpose of serving Black students and giving “students — primarily in-state minority students from inner-city high schools — an opportunity to attend the University of Michigan during the summer to achieve a solid academic foundation for success in the fall term.” Other programs meant for Black students, like the Bridge Scholars Program, has also seen a decrease in Black student enrollment.
“The University of Michigan must commit to an extensive restructuring of outreach and recruitment methods in enrollment management and outreach offices,” the demands read.
The University previously offered the Provost Award, which fully met out-of-state students’ demonstrated needs who typically had expected family contribution below approximately $11,000. Last year, the award was discontinued and the Victors Award was introduced, which includes a merit component and provides a flat $8,000 per year. The award is given in addition to other aid for which a student might qualify for.
Last month, after seeing a drop in Latinx enrollment, La Casa released a statement opposing the discontinuation of the Provost Award. According to the statement, the reduced financial aid packages did not provide sufficient support for out-of-state Latinx students who were unable to afford University tuition. The University has countered that the drop in Latinx enrollment could be due to the pandemic, but La Casa maintains that it believes the end of the Provost’s Award also played a factor.
“The policy sends a concerning message to the Latinx community and prospective out-of-state students who experience financial hardship that the University of Michigan is not accessible,” the statement reads.
Reassess University investments
SoC LF also asks that the University reassess its relationship with the fossil fuel industry and divest from companies that violate the rights of Palestinians in order to demonstrate a commitment to sustainable, ethical and moral spending.
In December, the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality — created after sustained student activism — released its draft recommendations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the University. However, activists — particularly those involved with the Climate Action Movement — have criticized the PCCN for not including divestment from fossil fuel industries under the scope of its work.
“Rather than be purely profit-driven, the University’s investments must be built upon ethical and moral considerations for sustainable investment,” SoC LF’s list of demands reads.
Daily Staff Reporter Paige Hodder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Students Allied for Freedom and Education. The organization is called the Students Allied for Freedom and Equality. This article has also been revised to accurately describe the demand for the Office of Student Life to grant $1500 for each board member, rather than for each organization. SOC LF organizations in a previous version of this article were also incorrectly referred to as “cultural assocations,” rather than “racial and ethnic justice organizations.” A subheading in the article has also been updated to more accurately reflect the demand to reassess allocations of University investments.
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