Hundreds walk out to protest Spencer event, march on campus
By Colin Beresford on November 29, 2017
Last week, the University of Michigan administration responded to Richard Spencer’s request to speak on campus and moved forward to negotiate the event. Today, in protest of the administration refusing to deny the request, hundreds of students walked out of their classes and rallied in the Diag, then marched into other classrooms on campus.
A few hundred students and community members gathered in the Diag at about noon on Wednesday and, after a short rally, marched to the Chemistry Building, Mason Hall and the Fish Bowl in Angell Hall. The rally is part of the #StopSpencer week of action, which includes teach-ins and other forms of protest.
“On Wednesday, November 29 2017, Stop Spencer at the University of Michigan is organizing a student walk out at 11:45 AM in response to the failure of University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel and the Regents to deny white supremacist Richard Spencer’s request to speak on campus,” the Facebook event reads. “We cannot learn in an environment that is constantly disrupting our learning by threatening our safety and dehumanizing us.”
On Nov. 21, the University said it was going to proceed with Spencer’s request to speak on campus, given the administration can ensure the safety of students. In an emergency meeting of the University’s Board of Regents, University President Mark Schlissel laid out “three components” to the decision: the safety of students, protecting free speech in a democratic society and that denying the request would give more attention to Spencer and his cause. Schlissel repeatedly said safety must be guaranteed in order for the event to take place.
LSA senior and organizer Hoai An Pham said, however, in a speech to the protesters in the Diag the walk out wasn’t just in protest to the University’s response last week.
“This week is not just about protesting Spencer coming here, it’s about protesting white supremacy and it’s about protesting the administration’s lackluster response, inactive, bystander response to a literal white supremacist coming on this campus,” Pham said. “The thing is here too, on this campus every single day, on a regular basis we have hate crimes that are coming.”
Spencer’s representative first requested he speak on the University’s campus at the end of October. This request came after Spencer had requested to speak at several other universities, including Michigan State University and University of Florida. The University of Florida initially denied a request from Spencer, but after being threatened with a lawsuit, relented and allowed Spencer to speak in October.
On Aug. 17, a statement released from the Office of the President at MSU declared MSU would deny the National Policy Institute’s request to rent space on campus. The NPI is a white nationalist think tank led by Spencer. MSU now faces a lawsuit for not allowing Spencer to speak.
The lawyer representing Spencer threatened to sue the University earlier in November if it did not accommodate Spencer’s request, giving the administration a week to make a decision. This deadline has since been extended until Dec. 8.
Previously, University Regent Ron Weiser (R) said in an email Spencer was “a dangerous and disgusting man.”
University Regent Denise Illitch (D), however, was the only regent opposing the decision last week, stating while free speech is a concern of hers, the violence that accompanies Spencer must be considered.
“Unfortunately, I do not agree with the University of Michigan administration,” she said. “While I am a staunch proponent of the First Amendment and stand firmly in support of our constitution, I remain very concerned that it is unsafe to allow him to speak at the University of Michigan. Violence follows him wherever he goes.”
LSA senior Kim Truong said free speech should not justify the administration potentially allowing space on campus for Spencer to speak.
“So a lot of people cling on to the idea that we need to have people speak because we should welcome all ideas, but sometimes their ideas have proven to be really harmful over and over again,” Truong said. “Why do we need to keep listening to Nazis? If we give them a space, it’s saying that those ideas are valid and should be listened to.”
For LSA freshman Payton White, not walking out of class would be remaining complicit in Spencer coming to campus.
“I feel like if you’re not against someone like him, then you’re basically advocating for him so I couldn’t just sit in class,” White said. “Personally, if he comes to campus, my life isn’t going to change because if I give him attention that he wants — and that’s exactly what he wants — and this is exactly why he did all of this but I feel like if we as a group ignore him and don’t give him any attention, it would be more effective than actually coming and being violent or being negative about the whole situation.”
During the protest, a situation occurred in the Fishbowl where LSA junior Princess Felix challenged protesters, arguing it would not be fair to bar Spencer from speaking. If students didn’t like what he was saying, Felix said, they shouldn’t listen.
“If you’re not going to listen to people, then you don’t have a right to be heard. You listen to others and you will be heard,” she said. “If he wants to kill people, then he will get arrested when he kills someone.”
Protesters retorted to Felix, defending their stance against Spencer’s presence. After most of the protesters left the Fishbowl, some stayed behind to continue talking with Felix.
It is still unclear when or where Spencer might be allowed to speak. In an exclusive interview with President Schlissel Tuesday, he stressed safety as a deciding factor.
“What the law allows us to consider is the time and the place and the manner of speaking," Schlissel said. "So for example, it would be very easy for us to say no if Mr. Spencer insisted on speaking on the Diag at 11 in the morning on a class day with a bullhorn, right? Because he would disrupt everyone’s class. So, using that as an example, what we would look for is a time of the day and time of the year and a location that our professional security people tell us is the safest possible way to do this. It would be silly to discuss these things in public and these are things that we want to discuss with Mr. Spencer’s representatives to figure out whether we can do something that’s safe."
Game over: Michigan time to be eliminated
By Maya Goldman on February 18, 2018
LSA sophomore Lexi Michaels wasn’t expecting to be late to her Psychology 280 exam. In fact, she thought she was early. But when she walked into the testing accommodations room a few minutes after 2:30 — she’d run there right from her last class — she realized the exam was not being administered on Michigan time and everyone else had already started.
“My expectation was that it would (start on Michigan time), because that’s what most of my classes and exams start on, even if they’re in a testing accommodations room,” Michaels said. “And it didn’t. I walked in really flustered. I was like, ‘Are they going to let me take the exam?’”
After the initial scare, everything turned out fine for Michaels. She was still given a full two hours to take her exam and no one was angry at her for coming in late. However, start time confusion is common at the University of Michigan and the administration has decided it’s time to take action.
Starting May 1, no University classes will run on Michigan time, the 10 minute late-start built into most undergraduate classes at the University. Michigan time is a University tradition that dates back to the 1930s. Students and professors used to time their classes according to the chimes of the Burton Tower at the beginning of each hour and Michigan time was officially adopted to allow students to get from class to class without being late. Now, to allow for students to get to back-to-back classes, all classes will stop 10 minutes before the hour.
Though administrators have been talking about removing Michigan time for many years now — University Provost Martin Philbert said there have been conversations since he came to the University in 1995 — this is the first time anything conclusive has passed. The change will start in May for the Spring and Summer terms, so any unexpected kinks can be worked out before the Fall 2018 semester.
“The freshmen will come in not knowing a time we had it,” Philbert said.
According to Philbert, it was a “tradition born out of necessity.”
Now, however, some see the once-crucial tradition as a hindrance. Many newer University schools never adopted it and Patricia Hurn, dean of the School of Nursing, told The Daily in an email Michigan time was never an option for the Nursing School.
“The major reason our classes have not used Michigan Time is because we are a clinical discipline,” Hurn wrote. “So we very early on aligned our class times, specifically the on-the-hour start time, with the time of our clinical partners. None of these partners recognize or utilize ‘Michigan time.’”
Problems arise when University units aren’t operating on synchronized schedules and because programs like the Nursing School don’t have the option of Michigan time, Philbert thinks going to “clock time” is the most logical course of action.
One of the major issues the new system aims to fix is the shortage of classrooms. When some schools are on Michigan time and others are not, classrooms are unavailable for up to 10 minutes at the end of the hour.
“We have the need for more classrooms,” Philbert said. “We have more sections, which require more rooms and some of these rooms require specialized services. So by aligning time, we free up the number and types of classrooms available.”
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the University is also hoping the switch will make collaboration among different schools and departments easier.
“I’d say one of the hallmarks of our campus is cross-University collaboration,” Fitzgerald said. “From school and colleges and departments and different units who are constantly cross-pollinating all of our efforts, and this really facilitates that… We’re just eliminating one of those stumbling blocks.”
Though there are clear benefits for faculty and administrators, students are uncertain about the upcoming change. Michaels, even after her exam confusion, thinks Michigan time works well. She’s concerned professors will have a difficult time stopping 10 minutes short of the hour.
“I really like Michigan time. I think it makes so much sense, especially when you have back-to-back classes,” she said. “It gets your day rolling. I think that (this new system) is just a cause for disaster. I think that professors are way more aware of starting 10 minutes late because they haven’t started yet, but if they have to end 10 minutes early, they’re not going to know to stop.”
While Michaels understands this could eventually be a good system, the thought of working through the transition next semester is daunting.
“It’s going to be a huge transition and it’s going to mess a lot of people up with their schedules,” Michaels said. “I don’t think this is a good idea, but that’s just because I’m used to Michigan time and I think that this is working well so I don’t see why you should change what’s already working and what people like.”
On the other hand, Philbert said he’s received a lot of positive feedback about the change from students and faculty.
“Especially through Vice President Royster’s office, we have worked with many student organizations,” Philbert said. “In my experience there’s been an enormous sigh of relief that we’re all going to be operating on the same expectations of starting and finishing.”
University of Michigan student tuition will no longer cover testing for sexually transmitted infections at University Health Services
By Catherine Nouhan on September 2, 2019
University of Michigan student tuition will no longer cover testing for sexually transmitted infections at University Health Services.
This update is part of UHS and Michigan Medicine’s new policy of billing students’ personal insurance for “laboratory testing, radiology x-rays and ultrasounds and allergy injections,” as announced in a policy memo on July 15. Previously, these services were covered by the Health Service Fee, a mandatory fee of $199 included in the tuition paid by University students each semester.
Under the new policy, all laboratory tests, including STI tests, will be sent to Michigan Medicine laboratories, and costs will be billed to students’ personal health insurance. There are still no fees for the Sexual Assault Exam at UHS, which may include an STI panel.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children can remain under their parent’s health insurance until the age of 26. The insurance policy holder — which for many students is their parents — may receive an Explanation of Benefits from the insurance company detailing the services received at UHS, including an STI panel.
If students are receiving services no longer covered by their tuition, they will receive a flyer detailing the billing change and information about an out-of-pocket payment option to avoid the EOB. A standard STI panel at UHS is $90 out-of-pocket.
Charging students’ personal health insurance allows UHS to create a revenue stream while cutting costs. In the announcement, UHS noted this change was necessary “to keep the health service fee unchanged this year, despite significant increases in expenses, including providing greater financial support to other student life units.”
Dr. Robert Ernst, executive director of UHS, said these billing changes come with an increased pressure to create multiple revenue streams for UHS.
“In the context of being asked to stay creative, stay innovative and hold increases in the health service fees to a minimum, the easiest first step is to let the hospital bill what they’re doing, instead of us just paying for them,” Ernst said.
According to Ernst, before the policy change, more than half of UHS’ yearly laboratory testing costs were from student STI checks, which amounted to approximately $300,000.
According to the UHS website, for students who have Blue Cross Blue Shield, Medicare or any University-funded health care, bills should be covered. If a student has another type of insurance, coverage is not guaranteed.
“It is ultimately the decision of your insurance company whether they will pay UHS,” the website reads. “If we do not receive payment from your insurance company, UHS will bill you and you will be responsible for payment.”
UHS wants to help uninsured students enroll in Medicaid and has also released a new health insurance plan, Ernst said.
CSG Vice President Isabelle Blanchard, an LSA senior, said CSG is planning on releasing a list of other options for STI testing, as well as a survey to monitor student concerns.
“CSG has already begun communicating with students about this change, and plans to release a survey to the student body to learn more about how this might affect the student experience,” Blanchard wrote to The Daily in an email.
Alternative options for inexpensive STI checks include Planned Parenthood or the Washtenaw County’s Sexual Health Services building. Neither offer free testing.
Some students have expressed concerns about STI testing showing up on their parents’ EOB. A student who has requested to remain anonymous for this article said in a strict religious family such as her own, there would be consequences for her education if her parents knew she was tested.
“Billing such tests to personal insurance removes that sense of safety a student gets from knowing their parents don’t know about their sex life,” she said. “Personally, I come from a highly orthodox family and if they knew I was having sex, I would face pretty serious repercussions, the lowest of which would be pulling me out of school.”
If students are concerned about their parents seeing the EOB for an STI test on the insurance bill, they should consider buying their own health insurance, Ernst said.
“If a student is seeking confidential healthcare that they don’t want their parents to be made aware of, they might be individuals who might be interested in exploring their own personal student health insurance plan,” Ernst said. “At just over $1,700 a year, it might actually be more affordable for them than the extra cost to stay on their parents insurance, and then it would be certainly very confidential.”
Parental disapproval is just one of the reasons students are worried about this new policy. Betsy Stubbs, Art & Design junior and SAPAC volunteer, said having free STI checks on a college campus eliminated barriers to getting tested.
“People are already very reluctant to get tested for STIs,” Stubbs said. “There is such a negative stigma surrounding STIs that it makes it very difficult to work up the courage to get tested. U-M was taking steps in the right directions — allowing testing to be free because that eliminated one more barrier. Handing out condoms can’t be the only thing this University tries to protect student’s sexual health.”
Rackham student Kaley Makino, who is passionate about sexual health advocacy, said this also adds financial barriers to students in addition to the stigmatization.
“Privatizing sexual health screenings will undoubtedly lower affordability and access to students who may or may not have personal insurance willing to cover the cost of the testing,” Makino said. “This will further discourage students to get STI screened because they will likely have to pay some portion out-of-pocket, which is an added expense many cannot afford."
All students interviewed for this article stated they were unaware these billing changes included the loss of STI tests previously-covered in their tuition. The anonymous student said she heard of the change from a reddit thread.
Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five discusses religion, criminal justice system
By Jasmin Lee on Feburary 2, 2020
“You were born on purpose,” Yusef Salaam, public speaker and one of the Exonerated Five, said. “If you were born on purpose, then you were born with a purpose.”
Salaam spoke to a crowd of more than 400 people at the Michigan Union Ballroom on February 3. Sponsors of the event included Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, the Ford School of Public Policy and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, among many others.
The Exonerated Five, previously known as the Central Park Five, were falsely accused of rape in 1989 and sentenced for up to 13 years in prison as teenagers in New York. The defendants’ assault convictions were overturned in 2002 and the five agreed to a $40 million settlement in 2014. A Netflix series called “When They See Us” shares the true story of the Exonerated Five. Salaam was only 15 years old when he went to prison and was exonerated when the actual assailant confessed to the Central Park rape.
DAAS Program Associate Elizabeth James began the event with an acknowledgment of the Union occupying formerly tribal land. MESA staff Leslie Tetteh and Saveri Nandigama then gave the welcoming address. Three poets performed before Salaam was introduced to the audience with a standing ovation.
Salaam engaged with the audience as he walked across the stage multiple times to address the large crowd. He shared stories about the effects prison had on his life and how he grew through his incarceration.
Salaam said an important part of his identity is his religion and he spoke about how Islam helped him grow into a leader during and after his time in prison. The presence of his religion made others aware of his character.
“Six months in jail, this officer asked me a question that seemed basic,” Salaam said. “He said ‘Hey there, who are you? I've been watching you. You are not supposed to be here. Who are you?’”
LSA freshman Temilolu Yusuf told The Daily she enjoyed hearing Salaam talk about the role of religion in his journey through prison.
“I love the fact that he really incorporated religion and the role of religion in his incarceration process, as well as his exoneration,” Yusuf said. “He really shows that for some things in life, that you really need that belief and support system… Even in prison, where many people use religion as a way to bring themselves up and not feel like prisoners, feel like they have control over themselves. It was amazing to see that he’s telling us, as people who have never been in prison, that religion is something that you shouldn’t only have when your back is against the wall. You should have it all the time.”
During his speech, Salaam also discussed how, in the 1980s, President Donald Trump, a prominent business figure in New York at the time, wanted the five teenagers to be sentenced to the death penalty only two weeks after their arrest. Salaam discussed the horrific statements Trump made about them and his reaction when Trump became president. Salaam spoke about Trump while holding up a copy of an advertisement Trump paid for in the New York Times.
“In a country where you think you are innocent until proven guilty,” Salaam said. “In a country where Dr. King said we live in two Americas: divided and unequal … Then you turn on the news and you realize, this can’t be right. You mean the man who called for our death. The man who was the fire starter. The man who writes in the papers that we should just take the eldest one and hang him from a tree in Central Park … That he will become the President of the United States. I wondered what God was doing.”
Public Health sophomore Aysiah White told The Daily she appreciated Salaam talking about his personal experience and how it has impacted his life’s work.
“My favorite part about the event was Dr. Salaam being vulnerable and sharing his voice,” White said. “It takes a lot for a person to stand in front of a whole crowd and to tell their story, especially one as personal as his. So I was just very appreciative that he took time to actually tell his part of his story.”
A panel following the keynote speech featured five panelists who contributed to the Black History Month narrative. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, associate professor of American Culture, moderated the discussion and asked the panelists questions about hope, abolitionism and the impact of incarceration on families.
A student asked the panel about unconscious racial bias and how to interact with people who present those attitudes towards people of color. In response, Erin Keith, staff attorney for the Detroit Justice Center, said unconscious bias is a reaction to Black people being able to thrive through centuries of injustice.
“Black people are in the future,” Keith said. “(People with unconscious bias) are afraid because they are wondering how we are still here, how are we still standing. No matter what anyone says, we are still gonna be in the future.”
LSA senior Nando Felten said he appreciated the multiple perspectives on the panel and the empowerment of Black people as the future of America. Felten said hearing Public Policy junior Cydney Garner Brown and Cozine Welch of the Prison Creative Arts Project speak on the panel was especially moving.
“My favorite part was just seeing the panel, seeing Cydney Garner Brown on stage with people that have served,” Felton said. “Cozine served 20 years in prison and that’s pretty much as long as (I’ve) been alive and seeing how he’s still here. He’s a director of different organizations and seeing the impact that these people are making on the world is amazing. The final ending part of how they said that Black people are in the future was just amazing and touching.”
Solomon Rajput is riding the socialist wave
By Julia Fanzeres on February 5, 2020
In the middle of the Michigan League’s Maizie’s Kitchen & Market, a dozen undergraduate students huddled around a laptop to sign in for their canvassing shifts. The small group decided to brave the January blizzard and knock doors for Solomon Rajput, a 27-year-old Ann Arbor native who put his medical studies on hold for a year to challenge Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., for Michigan’s 12th congressional seat.
Dingell has represented the district for the last four years. Previously, it was held by the late John Dingell for 59 years and, before that, by his father John Dingell Sr. for 22 years. Rajput hopes to disrupt this 85-year-old political dynasty.
He said he was interested in politics as a teenager but was disenchanted with how candidates seemed to be controlled by big corporations. Still looking to make a difference, Rajput decided to enter the medical field.
“I ended up in medicine because it is a way to help people in a very vulnerable moment, heal people,” Rajput said. “I was thinking maybe we can change our healthcare system from the inside out.”
After Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, Rajput’s political ambitions were reignited, leading him to found the activist organization Michigan Resistance. The goal of the group was to advocate for local progressive bills in the county and state legislature. Noting the success of progressive campaigns such as those run by U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., in 2018, Rajput said he became hopeful that he, too, would be able to make a difference through politics.
In September 2019, he decided to put his medical studies on the back burner and run for Dingell’s seat.
“I feel like times are changing, and it’s actually really exciting because we have a new generation of leaders who are running for office. We’re saying we’re not going to be beholden to corporate interest any longer,” Rajput said. “It’s so cool to see people like Bernie Sanders and AOC and Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, and what kind of leaders they can be when they’re just unapologetic champions for what the people need. And they don’t need to get their permission slip signed from their corporate donors before they can make any statement.”
In the corner of the cafe checking in volunteers was LSA freshman Gina Liu, the campaign’s campus coordinator for the University of Michigan. As more students filed into the cafe, Rajput began greeting them personally. He aims to not only campaign on a strong ideological platform but to rely on passionate grassroots volunteers while doing so.
“His experience is grassroots and his experience aligns with a lot of the constituents in this district and the young people in this district,” Liu said. “Seeing someone who actually is willing to fight the issues and also just not accept corporate money, that’s inspiring to me.”
Rajput’s platform is built on key policy pillars, including aggressively fighting climate change and rejecting corporate PAC money. He believes Congress needs to pass a Green New Deal.
Since District 12 has six colleges and a large student population, Rajput also believes it’s necessary to make college free and eliminate student debt. He argues that Medicare for All and single-payer healthcare should not only be supported as an opportunistic political move, but as a steadfast Democratic ideal.
“Part of the reason why I decided to run was because I was taking a look at how progressive our district actually is,” Rajput said. “Unfortunately, (Dingell’s) not the progressive champion that we need on these issues.”
As Rajput recounted his experiences canvassing, he claimed voters are not necessarily excited about having Dingell as their representative, but feel like she will always hold the seat. In these instances, Rajput makes his case a viable alternative.
“There’s this perception that Rep. Dingell is beloved in the community or that she is very active,” Rajput said. “(But) when we go and talk to voters, it’s remarkable how infrequently Congresswoman Dingell’s name is brought up.”
However, because he is new to the political sphere, Rajput’s understanding of some of the issues important to voters in the district is less developed. One of the predominant issues in District 12 is the man-made water crisis, where toxic PFAS chemicals have seeped into Michigan’s waters. These chemicals are linked to numerous health concerns, including cancer. Dingell co-authored the bipartisan PFAS Action Act, which passed the House of Representatives on Jan. 10.
While Rajput noted the work that Dingell has done to combat PFAS, he said he believes she and the Democrats are only making incremental legislation and not considering the larger issue at hand — climate change.
“Although we need to be focused on these more local environmental concerns, we can’t lose sight of the big picture,” Rajput said. “We can talk about this one chemical, or these few chemicals that are going to impact your health, but at the same time, are we putting blinders on when it comes to … the fact that our house is on fire when it comes to climate change?”
While Dingell has received criticism for not supporting the Green New Deal, she disagreed with the suggestion that local environmental concerns should be ignored and emphasized her record as a progressive congresswoman with a focus on environmental issues. In an interview with The Daily, Dingell said environmental groups such as Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters name her as one of the few representatives pushing for environmental bills every day.
“If you call any of the environmental groups … they will tell you that I have introduced the leading legislation in the Congress that is called the 100% Clean Energy Bill, which follows the UN recommendation in achieving the 100 percent clean energy economy by 2050,” Dingell said. “I am actually one of the only people getting bills through the Congress. So, I take great umbrage at his comment, to be perfectly frank.”
In November, three members of the Sunrise Movement held a sit-in protest at Dingell’s office in Ypsilanti where three were arrested. The young protestors demanded a meeting with the representative and urged her to sign on to the Green New Deal.
Dingell added that while she hasn’t come out in support of the Green New Deal, she has spoken with several stakeholders, including the Sunrise Movement and the Labor Coalition, to come to a conclusion all constituents will agree on.
“I met with Sunrise leadership and representatives, the Attorney General, Rashida (Tlaib) … We’ve been having conversations,” Dingell said. “I respect the work of those who are working on that.”
Rajput also opposes “forever wars,” and in an interview with Michael Arria of progressive news site Mondoweiss, Rajput took issue with the fact that Dingell had never made a statement against going to war in Iran, and only spoke out against its having congressional approval. Dingell rebuked the criticism, saying that she was one of the first Democrats to speak out against war in Iran.
“He’s got a way of … not telling the truth,” Dingell said. “I was one of the very first on the floor of the House to speak out about what the president did.”
Dingell stands by her record, noting that she is the co-chair of the Medicare for All caucus and has always passionately fought for quality affordable health care. She said she has consistently fought for progressive legislation and is proud of her ability to pass bipartisan legislation in Congress.
“I think that we gotta work with everybody, and (that) if you want to get a bill enacted that you’ve got to work across the aisle, because I know how to count votes,” Dingell said. “So if I can get a bill passed that will lower the cost of prescription drugs for a person in my district, that is a good bill. Then I’m going to work across the aisle … And that’s what I do. I put together friends across the aisle, and I try not to demonize people.“
Rajput said bipartisanship in this polarized era isn’t realistic.
“So I understand when people are saying … have the Republicans and Democrats figure out a way to work together across the aisle,” Rajput said. “That appeals to my emotions, like how it appeals to many other people in this country. However, I do believe that at this point, bipartisanship is a myth.”
As Rajput and a campaign fellow, LSA sophomore Alec Schlotterback, parked outside a residential neighborhood, they put on their campaign embroidered knit hats and gloves to bear the snowstorm. They divvied up the houses and trudged through the neighborhood as the snow and winds thickened.
“Canvassing with him is a pretty interesting experience because people react to him a lot differently than they do with a volunteer like me,” Schlotterback said. “They’re much more willing to listen to him and to share the things they care about when they see the candidate face-to-face as opposed to hearing about them from a volunteer. It’s also nice to know that he’s out there canvassing with us. It definitely helps me stay motivated knowing he’s out there knocking doors just like I am. Plus he’s got tons of energy and charisma and that really helps too.”
Rajput disappeared for a moment, having stepped inside of a house to talk to a constituent. While this action breaks traditional campaign protocol, he felt strongly about it. He said he spoke to a former Dingell supporter who left the conversation undecided.
“Knocking door-to-door, that’s how you change votes,” he said.
Bernie Sanders rally brings Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, supporters to Diag
By Emma Ruberg, Jasmin Lee & Julia Fanzeres on March 8, 2020
As Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., took a moment to look out onto the sea of attendees at his rally on the University of Michigan Diag, he addressed the crowd: “So right now, in this moment, we have got to look around us and what we have got to determine is whether you’re satisfied with the status quo.”
On Sunday evening, more than 10,000 students, faculty and Ann Arbor residents took to the Diag, wearing Sanders’s campaign gear waving white and blue “Bernie” campaign signs. Students began lining up as many as five hours before the rally was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
LSA senior Martha Abrams got in line at 1 p.m. and said she is voting for Sanders primarily because of his consistently held positions. She also said his positions on crime and the environment are reasons for her support.
“He has a consistent record in regards to criminal justice reform and being against mass incarceration, whereas Biden definitely doesn't,” Abrams said. “(Biden) has passed legislation (…) that really helped establish the carceral state as it exists today. With the environment, Bernie seems to be one of the frontrunners in acknowledging how pressing that issue is.”
The rally featured a spate of Michigan and national political figures including U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., former gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed and state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor.
El-Sayed rallied the crowd when he spoke before Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders took the stage. Sanders endorsed El-Sayed during his campaign for Michigan governor, who said his previous conversation with Sanders increased his confidence in grassroots movements.
“When I ran, I was lucky enough to get Bernie’s endorsement. Let me tell you about the conversation we had,” El-Sayed said. “He didn’t ask me what I stood for. He said I know what you fight for, but I want to know why you fight for it. And I told him about my grandmother, who never got the opportunity to go to school, though she was the smartest, wisest woman I have ever met. She used to remind me about when I go visit that it wasn’t about me. It was about the opportunities that I had.”
Ocasio-Cortez introduced Sanders, thanking Reverend Jesse Jackson for his March 7 endorsement of the senator. She discussed Sanders’ long-standing support for marginalized groups, citing it as a reason for her support. She also noted how, as mayor of Burlington, Vt., in the 1980s, Sanders endorsed Jackson for president at the Burlington Democratic presidential caucus.
“When it was time for the Vermont caucuses to come around, Mayor Sanders stood up to break the common consensus and endorsed Reverend Jesse Jackson for president,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “He stood up and delivered that speech in the Vermont caucuses. He was yelled at, he was hit, but he said this is our opportunity to bring millions of working people into our political process and transform who America can work for.”
Following Ocasio-Cortez’s introduction, Sanders walked on stage as John Lennon’s “Power to the People” played in the background. Upon entering the stage, he thanked Jackson and Ocasio-Cortez for their support and public service.
“What history is about is to understand that there have been extraordinarily brave people throughout history,” Sanders said. “People who’ve put their lives on the line, sometimes who have died, gone to jail in the struggle for justice. And that is what this campaign is about. That is what Jesse Jackson’s life has been about, that is what Alexandria’s life is about. And that’s what I hope all of your lives will be about.”
As Ann Arbor has undertaken efforts to combat climate change, many student groups such as the Sunrise Movement have endorsed Sanders’ aggressive environmental policies. Sanders argued for the urgency of these policies, stating the United States needs to be on the front lines of creating and implementing new provisions for environmental protection.
“Yes, we will pass legislation based on the principles of the Green New Deal,” Sanders said. “Climate is not just an American issue, but a global issue. We are going to lead the world and talk to the people in China and Russia, India and Pakistan ourselves, countries all over the world, and make the case that maybe instead of spending $1.8 trillion a year on weapons of destruction, killing each other, (we should) fight our common enemy, which is climate change.”
Speaking directly to the students and teachers in the audience, Sanders discussed how his policies will promote funding and support for education, which prompted applause from the crowd.
Sanders also emphasized the value of good public K-12 education. He said free primary education was no longer sufficient, promising to make colleges and universities tuition-free.
“Twelve years ago, I talked about making public colleges and universities like this one tuition-free,” Sanders said. “In the country, states, cities, communities are moving to free public colleges and universities. As president, that is exactly what we will do in every state in this country.”
If elected, Sanders said he hopes to expand protections under the Dream Act and establish a wider pathway to citizenship.
“We are going to bring sweeping reform to our immigration system,” Sanders said. “I am the son of an immigrant and I will not tolerate the demonization of immigrants. We will restore the executive order for the legal status of 1.8 million young people eligible for DACA. We will end a border policy which today allows fed agents to snatch babies from the arms of their mothers. We will end the ICE raids that are terrorizing communities and we will pass comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform and a path towards citizenship.”
The energy at the rally peaked when Sanders began discussing reproductive rights and his plan to expand funding for women’s health care. When he stated his intent to increase funding for Planned Parenthood, the crowd erupted, chanting: “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie.”
“I will never nominate anybody who is not 100 percent pro-Roe v. Wade (to the Supreme Court),” Sanders said. “Trump and his friends want to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Well, I’ve got bad news for them: we are going to expand funding for Planned Parenthood. The truth is, it must be women who control their own bodies, not the government.”
Some students who were attending the rally said they used it as an opportunity to decide between the other former Democratic front-runner Joe Biden and Sanders. LSA senior Samantha Ilagan said she is worried about the senator’s electability.
“I’m still deciding between Bernie and Biden,” Ilagan said. “I kind of worry specifically because Trump would be the Republican nominee and who can do better against the end of the general election? I think this election, in particular, is crucial for that specific reason. It’s a choice between ideals and electability … I’m not exactly sure what the right answer is.”
Anticipating some undecided voters’ hesitations, Sanders framed his campaign as a grassroots movement by the people, for the people. He said Biden’s campaign is supported by the corporate and political establishment.
“We are taking on Joe Biden and we are taking on the billionaires funding his campaign,” Sanders said. “We are taking on the Wall Street executives who are helping to fund his campaign and we are taking on the corporate and political establishment. We are gonna win this election.”
Sanders concluded his speech with a call for civic participation among his supporters.
“Tell your friends that you’re tired of them complaining about high tuition, student debt, lack of health care and low wages and unaffordable housing,” Sanders said. “Tell them to stop complaining at the standoff and fight back. So let us go forward. On Tuesday let’s win here in Michigan, let’s win the Democratic nomination and together let us defeat Donald Trump.”
‘U’ moves classes online in response to coronavirus
By Barbara Collins, Claire Hao & Emma Stein on March 11, 2020
The University of Michigan announced on Wednesday all classes on all three campuses will be held online beginning March 16 through the end of the semester, April 21, in response to the COVID-19 virus. Classes on Thursday and Friday will be canceled. However, the University will remain open, including dorms and dining halls.
In a statement shared on Twitter, University President Mark Schlissel wrote the changes are meant to maximize the safety of the campus communities.
“To protect the health and safety of our communities and minimize the spread of #COVID19, @UMich is making changes to classes, travel, study abroad and large events on our Ann Arbor, @UM_Dearborn and @UMFlint campuses,” Schlissel wrote.
Events expected to attract more than 100 people will also be canceled, including Honors Convocation. According to the statement, updates about plans for commencement will be provided when more information is available.
On-campus sporting events will be limited to parents and members of the press.
All spring and summer study abroad programs through the University will be canceled, given the severity of the outbreak. All other University international travel will also be suspended, except under rare circumstances requiring approval.
The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic Wednesday afternoon as the virus continues to spread globally.
The move to online classes comes a day after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency following the diagnosis of the first two cases of the COVID-19 virus in Michigan.
In a press conference Tuesday evening, Whitmer said she declared the state of emergency to maximize efforts and to assist local governments and officials in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re taking every step that we can to mitigate the virus spread and keep Michiganders safe,” Whitmer said in the press conference.
The two diagnosed cases in Michigan include a middle-aged Oakland County woman who has recently traveled internationally and a middle-aged Wayne County man who has recently traveled domestically.
Michigan Medicine announced Wednesday morning the hospital is treating one of the two confirmed Michigan coronavirus cases.
According to the University’s webpage on COVID-19, individuals should wash their hands often with soap for 20 seconds, avoid close contact with those who are sick and stay home when sick to prevent the spread of the virus.
Prior to the University’s decision to move classes online, universities across the state had already suspended in-person classes. Michigan State University suspended all face-to-face classes beginning at noon today, March 11. MSU President Samuel Stanley announced in an email to MSU students this morning. Online class instruction will last until April 20.
Central Michigan University also asked students not to return to campus after spring break and announced they will be moving their classes online through March 20. CMU will make a decision on whether to continue online classes on March 19.
Wayne State University announced Wednesday afternoon it will be extending spring break until March 23 to help plan for the transition to online classes.
As classes have been canceled across the country, some on social media have noted the sudden requests for students to leave campus may be harder to adjust to for students who may rely on university housing or meal plans. Additionally, they said some students may depend on work-study as a source of income.
Others have noted students may not be able to go home because of transportation costs or travel restrictions, or because coronavirus may be more widespread in that location.
Before the University announced the cancellation of classes, students on campus began creating a spreadsheet of resources to help students who may be disproportionately impacted by the changes.
Michigan Dining sent an email to MDining employees Wednesday afternoon letting students know they plan to continue having food available.
The email stated MDining is increasing their sanitation processes – including the back of the house and some spaces leading up to the dining hall. Additionally, greeters are no longer swiping M-Cards and students swipe their own.
Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. To stop the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control recommend people wash their hands often and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
Former students bring 40 years of misconduct allegations by SMTD professor
By Sammy Sussman on December 10, 2018
The University of Michigan hired Stephen Shipps as an associate professor of music on Sept. 1, 1989. Since then, he has had a successful academic career at the University. From 2001 to 2004, he served on the Executive Committee of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. From 2002 to 2007, he served as the associate dean for academic affairs. He is currently the chair of strings and the faculty director of the Strings Preparatory Academy, a university-affiliated pre-college music program for local middle and high school students.
A Michigan Daily investigation unearthed previously undisclosed allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct against Shipps. These reports span nearly 40 years, from fall 1978 to a University-affiliated summer program in the last five years. They include accusations of unwanted touching, sexual assault, prolonged sexual relationships with teenage students and misogynistic and sexist verbal statements.
Shipps declined to comment for this article. His lawyer, David Nacht, also declined to comment.
The Daily also found reports that at least one faculty member in the Music, Theatre & Dance School, Professor Yizhak Schotten, was made aware of some of these allegations soon after Shipps’s hiring was announced and before he started teaching. It is unclear whether he communicated these concerns to the University at the time, or if the University has ever been made aware of these concerns.
Shipps taught at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts — known then as the North Carolina School of the Arts before a 2008 name change — prior to coming to the University of Michigan. The Daily spoke with a former North Carolina School of the Arts college student, who wished to remain anonymous, citing professional and privacy concerns. She currently serves as the associate principal second (the second-ranked member of the second violin section) in a full-time professional orchestra. In this article, she will be referred to as Meghan.
Meghan was an international student assigned to Shipps’s private studio in UNCSA. By the end of her freshman year, she felt uncomfortable in Shipps’s studio.
“There had been small things that I was uncomfortable with,” she said. “I had heard rumors of flirting. I had seen flirting…He had overemphasized my talent in master classes a number of times, held me up to other students. I was a freshman, so it was awkward.”
Near the end of the year, Meghan told Shipps she wanted to switch studios. Elaine Richey was the other violin teacher at UNCSA at the time. Meghan was given the impression that she would have no trouble switching studios. She began making plans for the summer assuming she would be studying with Richey in the fall.
In one of her last private lessons, Shipps requested Meghan come see him after hours for her final private lesson. She had never had a late-night lesson before, but she agreed nevertheless.
According to her account, as she walked into Shipps’s studio that evening, the lights were dimmed. After she put down her violin, she says Shipps moved behind her and locked the door to his office.
“I thought that was very strange, but at that moment I didn’t feel threatened by it,” she said. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, that’s weird,’ but I probably just cast it aside as being secure after hours. I wasn't really thinking about it, but I remember I noticed it and it probably made me a bit uncomfortable.”
She pulled out her violin and started to play. But after a little while, she remembers Shipps stopped her. He told her she wasn’t playing with enough passion — that she needed to improve her understanding of passion in order to improve her playing.
“He kept on talking, talking about this and moving closer to me and I was backing away just very subtly,” she said.
Then, as they got close to the door, she alleged Shipps pushed her against the wall and tried to kiss her.
“I was really uncomfortable and shocked and horrified. I didn't find him attractive. It was unwelcome contact,” she said. “So I squirmed away to one side.”
At this point, Meghan alleges, Shipps moved toward her again, this time grabbing her by the shoulders and attempting to kiss her. She remembers squirming away again, expressing her discomfort and packing up her violin. As she left the room, Shipps told her Richey did not want her as a student next year; she would be studying with Shipps again that coming fall.
Meghan says she walked back to her dorm room in tears. A friend asked her why she was crying, and she told them she wouldn’t be able to study with Richey next year. The friend told her that this didn’t sound like Richey and encouraged Meghan to call Richey at her home.
Meghan did call Richey, asking her if there was any way that she could be put on a waitlist for a spot in her studio next year. But Meghan says Richey expressed great confusion at this request, saying she had wanted Meghan as a student but Shipps had told her Meghan had changed her mind.
Richey said she would drive to the school to figure everything out. Later that evening, she and Meghan met with the dean of fine arts. His name was Robert Hickok. Meghan told him what she had told Richey: Shipps had said Richey did not want her as a student and she would be studying with Shipps again the following year. Meghan told them both if she was required to continue studying with Shipps, she didn’t want to return at all.
Meghan says Hickok told her there had been a misunderstanding. He asked them to give him a little time to sort out where this misunderstanding had occurred.
“When he started talking about a ‘misunderstanding’ something in me raised a red flag because, I thought, this isn’t a misunderstanding — this is a deliberate act,” Meghan said. “So I asked if I could speak to (Hickok) alone and if (Richey) could leave.”
After Richey left the room, Meghan told Hickok exactly what had happened to her earlier. Meghan remembers his immediate response: “(Shipps is) a very affectionate man, are you sure you didn’t misunderstand it?”
But she insisted that she hadn’t. So Hickok told her she would never have to work with Shipps again. For the rest of her time at the school, she never took any classes or lessons with him.
Unfortunately, however, Meghan could not completely avoid Shipps. The UNCSA holds semi-annual juries. These are common practice in many music schools — students perform before faculty in their department and receive grades and written feedback on their growth over the past year.
Meghan was a high-performing student. She received grades in the upper 90s from all the other strings faculty on these juries. But Shipps consistently gave her grades in the mid-to-low 60s.
Stephen Shipps taught at the North Carolina School of the Arts from 1980 until 1989. The school was comprised of a high school division and a college division. It was an experiment in specialized education at a young age, combining high school and college students pursuing an education in the performing arts. Years later, however, the school also became known for the many alleged sexual harassment and sexual misconduct complaints made against high school and college faculty.
In the book “Mozart In The Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music” for example, author Blair Tindall describes her experiences as an oboist in the school’s high school division in the 1970s. As a high school student, she describes being in sexual relationships with a 43-year-old oboe teacher and a piano teacher around 20 years her senior.
When reached by email, Tindall characterized the school as “a cesspool of sexual abuse that took place behind walls and closed doors, with little chance of help for young people as there was nowhere to go for help … it was like shooting fish in a barrel for predators.”
UNCSA referred The Daily to its current Title IX procedures.
“The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) is committed to providing a learning, teaching, and working environment free from sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault, and one that is safe for all members of the campus community. We take any allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously. Currently, UNCSA has a strong Title IX policy and program, as well as one of the strongest Improper Relations Policies in the UNC System,” the director of communications noted in an email.
Unfortunately, instances of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment are all too common in the music education world. Shipps also spent some time teaching at the Meadowmount School of Music, a summer strings program for pre-college students. This program faced similar instances of alleged sexual misconduct: The program’s then-director Owen Carman was accused of paying a student in return for sex.
An investigation by The Daily also uncovered numerous previously undisclosed allegations against Shipps from his time at the University of Michigan.
Wendy Olson Posner, a former University student who also attended the North Carolina School of the Arts, described an uncomfortable interaction she had with Shipps while at the University. She attended the University to study with Paul Kantor, a former violin faculty member. Though she was not Shipps’s private student, Posner still interacted with Shipps in chamber music coachings and master classes.
In one instance, she recalled an uncomfortable interaction during a chamber music coaching: Shipps placed his hand on her bow arm to encourage her to move her bow more. In itself, this is not an uncommon act for a music teacher. But Posner says it was his comment that put her on edge. “Do this for me, baby,” she said he told her. “Do it for me.”
The Daily communicated with another individual that took part in this particular coaching. This individual independently confirmed Posner’s allegations.
In another instance, The Daily communicated with a female student who took lessons with Shipps in a University-affiliated summer program. The student participated in the program less than five years ago. She was in middle school at the time and she asked to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns.
It is not unusual for a violin teacher to touch their student’s arm or back in a lesson to correct bad hand posture or poor bowing technique. This student, however, alleges Shipps touched her on her hips during a violin lesson. He offered no pedagogical reason for doing so. She felt incredibly uncomfortable with this interaction. “What was that about?” she remembers thinking.
The Daily spoke with a friend of this student who was told of these events soon after their occurrence. This friend confirmed the accounts described in this article.
The Daily also spoke with multiple current and former students in the strings department, where Shipps is currently the Chair. These students mentioned occasional misogynistic and sexist comments by Shipps in master classes and lessons. In particular, multiple current students spoke of him saying “good girl” after female students finish playing in his master classes. Many members of the strings department are aware of these comments, they allege.
The Daily also spoke with multiple current and former staff and faculty members who spoke of misogynistic and sexist comments by Shipps during administrative and general faculty meetings. In particular, one faculty member described an unforgettable instance in which Shipps made misogynistic comments about an adult woman with ties to the University.
The Daily spoke with one former staff member who worked with Shipps in his administrative capacity. She wishes to remain anonymous, citing professional concerns. In this article she will be referred to as Jessica.
Jessica described a hostile workplace environment — a “boys’ club,” as she referred to it — in which female staff members banded together to resist harassment and misconduct from certain male faculty members.
The Daily spoke with another former Music, Theatre & Dance employee who confirmed Jessica’s “boy’s club” characterization of the Music, Theatre & Dance School at this time.
In particular, Jessica described being warned in her first days working with Shipps that she and other female faculty members should be careful around him. She was told to never be in a room alone with him and to leave the door open whenever she was in his office by herself. She was also told to never allow Shipps to get behind her, something that she initially did not fully understand.
Weeks after hearing this, however, Jessica learned why this was significant. As she sat in Shipps’s office one day, he moved behind her and began massaging her shoulders. She immediately excused herself from the room.
In another instance, Jessica said the word “fuck” in front of Shipps. Immediately after she did that, she reacted in embarrassment. Shipps noticed her embarrassment. He quickly grabbed her hand and began stroking it. He told her that “you can say fuck in my office any time that you want.” She was left feeling extremely uncomfortable after this interaction.
Jessica also alleges she was aware of some female students switching out of Shipps’ studio mid-year or mid-degree due to discomfort studying with him. The Daily spoke to other former faculty and staff members who repeated similar allegations.
Jessica alleges she told a Music, Theatre & Dance administrator of some of Shipps’s behavior. She says the administrator laughed off her complaints. During her time working with Shipps, she never saw the University take any disciplinary actions to address her complaints.
Music schools are somewhat unique in their relationship between faculty members and students. In almost all cases, students spend their entire degree studying privately with one specific instructor. Students get to know these faculty members quite well, spending an hour a week for many years learning from these mentors.
“Your mentor can be the path to your future, as so much of non-traditional … music employment is based on networking,” Tindall told The Daily. “It’s mostly freelance, you piece things together and few musicians have skills to find employment outside of music because of the narrow scope of conservatory education. Add the narcissistic star culture in performing arts and it’s the perfect storm.”
These allegations are not the first allegations against a Music, Theatre & Dance professor to surface. This past summer, baritone Samuel Schultz accused Music, Theatre & Dance professor David Daniels and his husband, Scott Walters, of sexual assault. An investigation by The Daily found evidence the University was made aware of other allegations against Daniels in March 2018. Daniels was awarded tenure in May, though he is currently on leave.
But unlike Daniels, who joined the Music, Theatre & Dance faculty in 2015, Shipps’ ties to the music school run deep. He is currently the chair of strings and the faculty director of the Strings Preparatory Academy. He is the former associate dean for academic affairs and a former member of the Music, Theatre & Dance School’s executive committee. He has been on the faculty at the Music, Theatre & Dance School since 1989, and he has taught some of the Music, Theatre & Dance School’s most famous alumni.
“There is nothing more important than the safety of our University of Michigan community. Your university takes every concern about safety very seriously. It is one of the reasons we have our own Division of Public Safety and Security that focuses exclusively on the needs that are unique to our community of students, faculty and staff,” Public Affairs spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald wrote to The Daily in an email statement. “When there are concerns that involve sexual misconduct, it is our normal practice to ask the Office for Institutional Equity to review all such allegations. If there are allegations that may be criminal in nature, U-M Police or local police also are notified immediately.”
The circumstances of Shipps’ hiring at the University remain unclear. In particular, it is unclear whether the University was aware of his alleged misconduct at the North Carolina School of the Arts.
A request by The Daily for records relating to Shipps from the UNCSA yielded just one document: a human resources spreadsheet from the 1988-1990 academic years listing Shipps’ reason for separation as “Other.”
It is unclear what this “Other” means, or on what terms Shipps left the North Carolina School of the Arts. The Daily contacted Larry Alan Smith, dean of the high school program at the North Carolina School of the Arts from 1986-1990, for comment.
“I was at NCSA from 1986-90. It was long ago, and I have done so many things since then,” Smith responded by email, before refusing to comment. The Daily emailed Smith further but did not get a response.
Meghan’s allegations about having told Hickok of her after-hours interaction with Shipps, furthermore, cannot be confirmed. Hickok has since passed away, as has Richey.
While multiple individuals The Daily communicated with believe members of the administration were aware of these allegations, no concrete evidence has emerged. Under North Carolina Public Records law, almost all records relating to Shipps’ time at the North Carolina School of the Arts need not have been preserved in the approximately 30 years that have elapsed since he left the school.
“We have found no records or reports regarding the alleged incidents, which happened some 30 years ago,” the UNCSA Director of Communications noted in an email to The Daily.
According to University policy as outlined in Standard Practice Guide Policies 201.95, the University conducts background checks on employees’ “credentials, criminal history, and other information related to employment and appointment decisions.”
The University notes “It is important that the University’s academic, research, patient care and service missions are supported by qualified employees and appointees with a safe and secure environment for all University constituents, including students, visitors, patients and employees.”
“The university’s faculty background check policy went into effect in 2013,” Fitzgerald stated in an email. “Before 2013, background checks were conducted at the discretion of the hiring unit. Pre-employment background checks include a criminal conviction check and verification of the highest academic degree disclosed by the candidate.”
Shipps’s faculty file in the Bentley Historical Library contains no documents from Shipps’ hiring committee. Memos of Shipps’s hiring and appointment to the role of associate dean for Academic Affairs both contain mentions of his time as an instructor at the North Carolina School of the Arts, though they give no indication as to the circumstances behind his leaving the school.
The Daily filed a Freedom of Information Act request for records from Shipps’ hiring committee at the University pertaining to his previous employment at the North Carolina School of the Arts. This request was denied because the School of Music, Theatre & Dance does not possess any such documents.
“Please note that Professor Shipps was hired by the University of Michigan nearly 30 years ago,” the Freedom of Information Act Office told The Daily.
Public Affairs, furthermore, noted “the University’s records retention guidelines specify that job applicant files be retained for three years,” as outlined in SPG 201.46.
The Daily spoke with an Ann Arbor-based freelance musician with extensive ties to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. This musician requested anonymity, citing privacy and professional concerns. They allege they were aware of some of the allegations against Shipps at the time of his hiring in 1989, and that they expressed these concerns to a faculty member.
That faculty member was Yizhak Schotten, a professor of viola. The musician alleges they spoke with Schotten in the old second floor lobby of the music school by the mailboxes soon after Shipps’s hiring had been announced by the Music, Theatre & Dance School but before he had started teaching lessons.
“Yizhak, I heard this guy is a scumbag,” they remember saying, adding some details about the nature of the sexual misconduct allegations they had heard against Shipps. They asked if the school was aware of these allegations when they hired Shipps, as they were concerned that these allegations had not been disclosed to the University.
Schotten’s response is something that they say they will never forget:
“That’s all in the past,” he allegedly said, dismissing their concerns.
The musician remembers being incredibly concerned at this response. “Did Schotten understand the nature of these allegations?” they remember thinking.
The Daily spoke to Schotten. He declined to comment on the record, explaining that he does not definitively remember these events from nearly 30 years ago.
Twelve years before Shipps was hired at the University, in the spring of 1977, Maureen O’Boyle began studying with him. At the time, Shipps was the concertmaster of the Omaha Symphony and O’Boyle was a high school student in Lincoln, Nebraska.
At the end of her second year of lessons, O’Boyle decided to leave high school early. She was 17 years old at this point, and she had just auditioned for and won a job in the Omaha Symphony as a full-time member of the first violin section — an impressive feat for a teenage musician. She moved to Omaha to study with Shipps at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and play in the first violin section. She was living alone in a small studio apartment.
Soon after moving in, she was told by the University of Nebraska-Omaha she would not be able to study with Shipps for college credit. But Shipps had reassured her she would still be able to study with him. He promised he would give her lessons — in return for her babysitting his daughter.
A couple of weeks later, Shipps allegedly invited her to a party after an evening rehearsal. She was the first to arrive to the party in Shipps’s detached basement studio. As the other guests arrived, he poured her a large “screwdriver” (a strong alcoholic drink). Marijuana was also being passed around. It was O’Boyle’s first time smoking and drinking.
“I’d never had one (a screwdriver) before, or any significant amount to drink,” O’Boyle said in an email to The Daily. “I was very drunk, and very high, incoherent.”
As the party came to an end, O’Boyle sat on the couch while the other guests began to leave. Eventually, she was left alone with Shipps. She was 17; he was in his mid to late 20s and married with a young daughter.
“Steve had sex with me on that couch, where I always unpacked my violin for a lesson,” O’Boyle said. “So, that’s how I lost my virginity. I do vaguely remember that moment, though most of the night is a blackout. (I) remember knowing what was happening with the feeling that my life was already horribly off course.”
After that night, O’Boyle continued studying with Shipps and babysitting his daughter.
“I babysat regularly, often spending the night in the spare bedroom,” O’Boyle said. “Sometimes we had violin lessons; sometimes Steve just wanted a blowjob on the couch.”
The year was incredibly difficult for O’Boyle. In a couple of instances, while ostensibly babysitting Shipps’s daughter or having a violin lesson at his house, she remembers almost being discovered by his wife.
“I remember Steve coming out of the shower in nothing but a towel when Steve and (his wife) were getting ready to go out,” O’Boyle said. “(She) gasped at him for doing that in front of me; he laughed it off like it was no big deal.”
She also remembers being incredibly depressed throughout the year, spending most of her time alone in her apartment.
“I spent a lot of time tearing off my cuticles until there was no skin around my nails at all,” she said. “Once I showed up for a lesson and had torn my fingers up to the point they were bleeding. Steve angrily washed and bandaged them, and I was so grateful he’d noticed even though he seemed irritated at me. It was a very difficult year.”
Near the end of that year, O’Boyle decided to move back to Lincoln to live with her family.
“My life in Omaha was an unmitigated disaster, and I just commuted to Omaha for the last couple of months of the Omaha Symphony season,” she said. “I prepared for and took auditions for other universities, and went to Indiana University the following September.”
The Daily spoke with another individual with knowledge of these events at the time who confirmed O’Boyle’s account.
Years later, a young violinist also from Lincoln, Nebraska, decided to attend the North Carolina School of the Arts for her junior and senior years of high school. She asked not to be identified in this article, citing privacy concerns. The specific years that she studied with Shipps have also been redacted — these alleged events occurred in the mid- to late-1980s. In this article, she will be referred to as Anne.
Anne and her parents had known of O’Boyle’s experiences with Shipps, but they thought he no longer had sexual relationships with students — he had helped O’Boyle win an incredibly difficult audition and these allegations were in his past.
“Despite our knowledge of the relationship Steve had had with (O’Boyle), my parents and I decided it was best for me to finish my last two years of high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts, studying with him,” Anne wrote in an email to The Daily. “I wanted to focus on violin as much as possible, and I convinced all of us that I wouldn’t follow the same path.”
Shipps had an impressive reputation as a teacher by this time, and Anne was determined to study with him. She had a pleasant experience studying with him at the beginning of her first year. Toward the end of that year, however, she began babysitting Shipps’s daughter. Soon afterward, he began an ongoing sexual relationship with her. She was 16 at the time, and he was in his 30s.
“I remember when it started, in his car, as he drove me home from babysitting one night,” Anne wrote in an email to The Daily. “For the next few months, I sometimes had a lesson during my scheduled slot. Other times, we were engaged in heavy petting and he taught me how to perform oral sex on him.”
Around the end of that year, Anne decided to keep a journal to document her experiences with Shipps. She has kept that journal to this day, though it has sustained significant water damage. On the first page, she describes her struggle to keep her relationship a secret.
“I am 17 as of June (redacted.) I bought this notebook because I have a lot of secrets. I can talk about some of my secrets to a few certain people but when they are around I don’t think they really want to listen. Then there are the other secrets,” she wrote.
“Steve has had the reputation for fooling around with his students in the past,” she wrote.
Anne also describes Shipps as being a good teacher, though alleges his interest in sexual acts frequently interfered with her lessons.
“He is very good at switching roles and being a teacher. (O’Boyle) said the relationship was all on his terms and when he wanted to have sex, they would arrange something and if not, he would just conduct a normal lesson as if nothing had happened between them. I mean it’s good that he can do that and still be a teacher and get things done at lessons but can you imagine just never knowing what to expect; if he wanted you that day or not?” she wrote.
The Daily spoke with five former North Carolina School of the Arts students with knowledge of these events at the time. All confirmed Anne’s account.
Many high school music students use the summer to attend intensive summer music programs, and Anne was no exception. She decided to continue her studies with Shipps at the Indiana University strings program that summer. In a diary entry before she left for the summer, Anne describes what Shipps had told her about his plans for her.
“Maybe I won’t even unpack my violin. I don’t know but as of the end of May when I went home, I know what he expected from me this summer. I also know what I led him to believe I would give/get from him. ‘I bet I could make you come (sic.). Can I make that my project for this summer?’ ‘We’ll have fun this summer.’ ‘We’ll take a day this summer and get away.’ All these things he says to me as we kiss and explore. Why wouldn’t I assume what I assume about my lesson tomorrow: Would he have a change of brain just because I have? He won’t be hurt. He gets to have his cake and eat it too,” Anne wrote.
Anne also described her fears of being discovered and the damage to her career that she feared would ensue.
“The things that would happen if we were found out would be: he would probably be fired but first, I would be thrown out of school, every connection I might have through him would be a negative one, rather than a positive one, if at all. I guess what I’m saying is that I would sort of be blacklisted, he would have a lot of reason to hate me since it would probably be my fault that we were found out, he might have a hard time finding another job etc. etc. In other words — nobody can know. I need him as a teacher at this point in my life,” Anne wrote.
At the beginning of the summer program, Anne got back in touch with another young Nebraskan violinist named Wendy Olson Posner. (Posner later attended the University of Michigan, and her allegation against Shipps from her time at the University appears above.) Anne knew Posner from home, though they had not been particularly close until that summer. Posner was hoping to study with Shipps that fall when she would begin her studies at the North Carolina School of the Arts.
Anne’s diary entries from the first days of this program document her struggle telling Posner of her relationship with Shipps.
“I want so much to talk to Wendy. I almost did just now. I think she may have figured or will soon figure it out. Oh I wish I could talk to her about it. But I guess that’s why I have this notebook, right? The main reason I can’t tell her is because she is going to North Carolina School of the Arts next year (where I have been for the past year). I think I influenced her in her decision to go there and study with Steve and Steve has had the reputation for fooling around with his students in the past. I of course did my best to dispel that thought from her mind,” Anne wrote.
Despite her misgivings, Anne began rationalizing her relationship and shifting some of the blame for it back on herself.
“At least now that I’m 17, he’s only twice as old as me,” she wrote.
Posner describes learning of this relationship before she got to know Shipps. Anne told Shipps that Posner knew of their relationship, and Posner was forced to keep this relationship a secret.
“That was sort of my introduction to him and very early on, it may even have been before I had my first lesson with him,” Posner said. “My friend confided in me that she was involved with him. I tried to keep the secret. I didn't tell anybody.”
When they both went to the North Carolina School of the Arts that fall, this secret drew the two of them together even as it alienated them from the community around them.
“Part of me is stuck in that … teenager part of my brain,” Posner said. “Even though I know on some level that generations are going by and girls are still being hurt by this man, it’s only in really lucid moments that I realize that I’m stuck, I’m still worrying about my friends as if we’re all still 17. The whole thing was deeply disempowering, and that sense of being powerless really sticks to the way I think about this whole subject even now.”
By the spring of her senior year, Anne had left the school and moved back in with her parents. Despite having lined up auditions with major music schools such as the Curtis Institute of Music, Anne was struggling emotionally and mentally.
Anne received a letter from Shipps shortly after moving back in with her parents. A copy of this letter was provided by Anne to The Daily.
In it, he shares his thoughts about colleges to which Anne might consider applying. Anne described being amazed by the tone of this letter and the lack of regard it seems to demonstrate for her overall well-being.
The letter reads: “[Redacted] – I hope to speak to you before you get this. But Curtis looks worse & worse. NY City (Delay or Dicterow) looks like the best bet. Boston looks good — both University & Conservatory. Northwestern looks bad after doing research. Talk soon if you can afford a call. Steve”
Though many of the women in this article have gone on to achieve great career success, they described their interactions with Shipps as having forever changed their views on student-teacher interaction and their perception of the larger professional music community.
Maureen O’Boyle, for example, currently teaches violin at the University of Tulsa, where she is an associate professor of music. She described her experiences with Shipps as having affected her to this day, both in her private instruction and in her general interaction with students.
“I am extremely careful about my relationships with students,” O’Boyle wrote in an email to The Daily. “I have never socialized with my students, other than at public, post-concert events. There is no couch in my office at TU or at home. I don’t even hug my students, except after degree recitals in front of their parents. I don’t discuss my personal life, or my students’.”
“That is one of the most damaging things about using lesson time to have sex with your students, though as a student I had no inkling of this at all,” O’Boyle wrote. “I also meet with advisees every semester. I keep the door open for these meetings, since nobody is playing the violin. If there is no music coming out, my office door stays open.”
Meghan described her experience with Shipps in strong terms, expressing concerns over the fact that Shipps has continued to teach young violinists.
“When I looked back at it, it seems to me that lowering the lights after hours, locking the door … I think that he set a trap,” Meghan said. “I think it was thought about ahead of time and it was considered how he was going to do this and how he was going to get away with it and I think that he went out of his way as a predator does. To this day I think the man is a predator … I was horrified to find out he'd gotten a second teaching position at University of Michigan.”
Meghan had told the dean at the North Carolina School of the Arts about her uncomfortable interaction with Shipps. As an international student, she moved home assuming these reports would prevent Shipps from holding any future teaching positions.
“How is it possible that he got another teaching position?” Meghan asked. “I assumed he had left in shame and with the records — I didn't know if it was a criminal record or if it was just that the university had dismissed him with cause — but I had assumed that there was paperwork that followed him … that he wouldn't have any references.”
Anne spoke of her fears as to how this article will be perceived. She decided to speak on the record after learning of more recent allegations against Shipps — she says she came forward for the good of Shipps’s current and future students.
“I have nothing to gain from divulging this information about Steve,” she wrote in an email to The Daily. “I seek no settlement. I never got a bad grade. When the article comes out, we can expect to be judged as ‘sluts,’ ‘crazy,’ ‘liars’ and seeking attention/financial gain.”
She expressed shock at Shipps never having been reprimanded, and fear that his behavior would continue if he was never held accountable for his actions.
“It would not surprise me if he were the same as he was, since the only consequence for his actions appears to have been a slap on the wrist or possibly some stern words spoken in an office,” she wrote. “He has probably never had to own the fact that he has a problem or that his behavior has ever been inappropriate. The rest of us have been struggling for years.”
Posner expressed similar concerns over Shipps’ continued interaction with young students.
“There were (multiple) instances in which he got involved with 17 year olds in the two years that I attended NCSA — these were young women I knew quite well — and having seen how it affected (these) young women at the time, I would feel irresponsible recommending him as a teacher to any female student, and particularly to girls of pre-college age,” Posner said.
She also spoke about the effect these events had on her life. She is careful to note that they didn’t affect her career or influence her decision to pursue music only as a hobby. But still, these events have stayed with her over these many years. They defined who she was as a teenager and stayed with her in the 30 years since. To this day, she struggles with what she should have done differently — and what she can do now.
“For my friends, I have reason to believe that this whole chapter was a devastating, life-derailing event,” Posner said. “For me, a relative bystander, it resulted in years of guilt alternating with rage at the entire system — rage that didn’t seem to have a safe outlet. I believed — and still do, frankly — that the people in positions of authority who I might have chosen to confide in must have already known…and would not have acted. Now that I am well into middle age myself, and safe from any significant risk of harm, it occurs to me that I’ve become another one of those people who could have acted but has chosen not to.”