University of Michigan faculty, graduate student instructors, research assistants and staff:
We are writing this to request that you to cancel classes Nov. 30 to pressure the administration to refuse to allow Richard Spencer to speak on campus, as well as show leniency to marginalized students who have been affected by our oppressive campus environment throughout the rest of the semester.
The recent decision to “begin discussions with Richard Spencer’s group to determine whether he will be allowed to rent space” on the University of Michigan’s campus demonstrates, as we have learned time and time again, the administration’s refusal to truly prioritize the needs and safety of its students. Though President Mark Schlissel stated “if we cannot assure a reasonably safe setting for the event, we will not allow it to go forward,” Spencer’s history shows us there is no “safe” setting possible when white supremacists and neo-Nazis are given permission to come to college campuses.
On this campus alone, marginalized students are in danger of hate crimes every day, from white supremacist flyers, spray paint asking to “Free Dylann Roof” and the n-word written on door signs. The University has not been able to catch any of these perpetrators, nor to prevent such attacks from happening. There is no history or precedent of Schlissel being able to “assure a reasonable safe setting” within his own campus, let alone if Spencer chooses to come here. Howell, only 33 minutes away, is known as a base of the Ku Klux Klan. Michigan has one of the largest armed civilian militias in the country, whose members engage in violent white supremacist rhetoric. These groups, and numerous others, will show up and harm marginalized students on campus. They have not failed to do so in the past.
Students come to the University to attend classes and learn. When individuals like Richard Spencer and his followers are allowed to convene on campus, there is inherently a barrier created for marginalized students just trying to exist and receive an education. The academic integrity of this institution will always be in question when portions of students are denied the right to safety on campus –– this denial only exacerbates the inequities that already exist at the University of Michigan.
At the very root, this university should exist to serve every one of its students, and it is not doing so if students are forced to skip class and schoolwork in order to advocate for their fundamental human rights. In allowing Spencer to come, students are forced to do work (for free) that Schlissel and administrators are paid to do and continually fail to do. This is not even including the mental and physical toll that it takes to have to face oppression here every day.
These are simple requests. We ask that you stand in solidarity with us, marginalized folx across campus and the broader community, by canceling class, discussions, labs and any other academic obligations on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. Alongside this we ask that students get the leniency needed to successfully finish the term, given the reality that our campus, classes, homes, residence halls and community have continually remained unsafe. Students are unable to academically succeed when they are forced to fight to exist on this campus.
Students4Justice and other organizers
We understand that leniency for marginalized students can be interpreted in many different ways. Our overall goal in this ask is for these students to be given a fair chance to succeed in their classes, because the current campus climate places them at a disadvantage. Below are some potential ideas that we have used our labor and time to come up with:
-Waived class attendance requirements or more excused absences
-Extensions on assignments
-Create spaces in classes to talk about events
-Make assignments more relevant to campus/world climate
-Provide alternate assignments and opportunities for students to receive credit
-Ask students what they need to be successful in the course given everything that has happened (do not target students who you feel like are “more” likely to be affected. E.g., Black students, brown students, etc. Those assumptions can cause more harm than good)
-Make yourself available and approachable for students to ask for assistance
-Read the news in order to keep yourself updated, so you can come into class with prior knowledge and not force students to explain everything