By Yardain Amron, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 23, 2014
The University will meet with students from the Black Student Union Friday to discuss diversity and the seven demands the organization laid out in a protest on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
The meeting was confirmed both by a tweet from @THEBSU Thursday afternoon and by University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald.
“#BBUM organizers have a meeting with university administration this Friday to discuss the #7Demands,” the BSU tweeted.
Fitzgerald said the meeting will begin a dialogue to ensure administrators and students have a shared understanding of the BSU’s demands before beginning to map a path forward.
“This is the meeting that we’ve been seeking to set up since the Black Student Union issued its voice of concerns on Monday,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve said all along that the first step would be to get to the leaders of the Black Student Union and leaders of the University together to talk about those concerns, and this is the first step in that process.”
Representing the University at the meeting will be Liz Barry, special counsel to University President Mary Sue Coleman, E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones and University Provost Martha Pollack.
The meeting comes amid growing concerns regarding diversity on campus, highlighted by the #BBUM campaign that launched last semester and trended nationally on Twitter.
The BSU’s seven demands include an increased BSU budget, more affordable off-campus housing for students of lower socioeconomic status, a more centrally located Trotter Multicultural Center, emergency scholarships for Black students, access to historical documents at the Bentley Historical Library related to race relations and an increase in Black enrollment “equal to 10 percent.”
BSU members announced the set of seven demands Monday after a protest outside of the University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Symposium’s keynote lecture.
The protest came days after Pollack announced a series of initiatives designed to address the concerns raised by the #BBUM campaign, including the creation of a new administrative position tasked with increasing minority recruitment and a promise to renovate the Trotter Center.
In a statement, Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore Stephon Dorsey, a BSU member, said the BSU will not be making a statement on the meeting.
As the BSU prepares to meet with the University Friday, University alum Lester Spence, an assistant professor of political science and Africana studies at Johns Hopkins University, launched an online petition Wednesday to support the #BBUM movement. The petition has garnered over 500 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
“The University of Michigan’s lack of sustained commitment to diversity and the public good has fueled student protest,” the petition read. “As proud University of Michigan alumni committed to the university's mission we urge you to take all appropriate means to address the claims of Michigan’s undergraduate black student population.”
Since 2006, when Michigan voters elected to ban the use of race, among other factors, in college admissions, Black student enrollment has declined from 7.1 percent to 4.2 percent of the undergraduate population.
In an interview with the Daily, Spence said he created the petition to show the students engaged in protest how many people — Black and non-Black — support their activities, believe in the University’s commitment to the public good and believe the University should be committed to racial equity.
“I thought a public statement would show (the students) they are not alone and would also give a signal to faculty and staff, including President Coleman, that there are other people who are watching and want them to do the right thing,” Spence said.
Spence, who participated in campus activism in the 1980s, added that although the BSU’s seven demands are not unreasonable, they should be thought of more expansively.
“Those desires aren’t just about Black students but are really about the impact the University of Michigan has on poor students,” Spence said. “It’s really hard to be a poor student at the University of Michigan now.”