Dear Dean Massey, Dean DeRue, Dean McCauley, Dean Gallimore, Dean Finholt, Dean West, Dean Runge, Dean Gier, Dean Hurn, Dean Dalton, Dean Bowman, Dean Videka,
As graduate students, it is disheartening to write this because it means little has changed. Some may say at an educational institution such as the University of Michigan, it is fair to assume students share their experiences when injustices occur, allowing (but usually having to force by creating space in a room) other students to learn our true narrative, but when will you? When will you realize students should not have to be the first to address racial disparities and injustices that occur both on campus, and in the world?
I’m disappointed we pride ourselves on being a top-ranked public university, and yet the same students you so happily market to the world are suffering. We continue to devote our time, money and health — physically, mentally and emotionally — to an institution which continues to fail us. We continue to commit to an institution that our families believed would aid us during this cycle of growth, yet we’re left to empower and curate spaces for ourselves, with what feels like no support from administration. This institution has a history of privileging “whiteness,” while other communities are dismissed until we begin to disturb the “peace” this University has created. In a world where our existence is deemed to be resistance, that “peace” was not created for our community. It is nothing more than a lie to hide a system that conforms to and honors the majority. We’re our own strength in times of trouble, and we’re left to put out a fire ourselves in a country that tells us in no uncertain terms that Black lives do not matter.
A dean has the authoritative control over academic or other specific units of concern. With responsibility to your students in your respective schools and areas, it’s time to address racial injustices correctly. Retweeting University President Mark Schlissel’s statement is not enough. We’re tired. We’re tired of having this conversation yearly. We’re tired of asking for statements and action. We’re faced with a virus affecting our community with the disproportionate burden of illness and death. We’re faced with a system that trains us to constantly worry about racism and police brutality. Selection attention thrives and we are forgotten by the world. We are also preparing to return to an institution where the two will intersect. We’re tired.
How can you call us the "leaders and best," when the institution itself does not lead morally? Fortifying this behavior perpetuates ignorance in the student body and fortifies complacency in a disserving system. You're contributing to the endless cycle. We are tired of meaningless statements and empty promises. This is a call to action. We have taken the initiative for far too long. We are forced to relive traumatic experiences far too often. Now is the time. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu
Sidney Arrington-Ashford, University of Michigan School of Social Work ‘20 – can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Timberlee Whiteus, University of Michigan School of Public Health ‘22 – can be reached at email@example.com