Students and faculty protest lack of diversity at the University

Paul Sherman/Daily
Students, faculty and Ann Arbor citizens gather on the Diag Wednesday to participate in a freeze out, a silent demonstration to bring about awareness of minority experiences on campus. "It's time for us to stand up now and ... demand our rights" said LSA freshman Maria Lopez. The Supreme Court will be hearing Michigan's Affirmative Action case on Tuesday, October 15. Buy this photo

By Shoham Geva, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 9, 2013

Though the Diag is usually a busy, bustling place, students there froze in place at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Paul Sherman/Daily
Students, faculty and Ann Arbor citizens gather on the Diag to participate in a Freeze Out, a silent demonstration to bring about awareness of minority experiences in college.
Paul Sherman/Daily
Students, faculty and Ann Arbor citizens gather on the Diag to participate in a Freeze Out, a silent demonstration to bring about awareness of minority experiences in college.

We Are Michigan, a new student movement, conducted a “freeze-out” protest on the Diag for faculty and students of color, as well as their allies, to raise awareness about minority enrollment and the general campus climate at the University.

During the two-hour period, about 150 faculty, administrators and staff members protested alongside students.

“With a freeze out the whole idea revolves around the concept of presence,” said Music, Theatre & Dance and LSA senior Taylor Moore-Willis, who is one of three co-founders of the movement. “We feel like often students of color are overlooked or their presence is taken for granted, so, hopefully, by freezing the Diag, we can draw attention in a positive way.”

E. Royster Harper, the University’s vice president for student life, was part of the protest, as well as members of University Housing, Security, the Office of Admissions and the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives.

Throughout the protest, the group led chants in both English and Spanish regarding representation, voice and presence.

LSA senior Chloe Brown, another co-founder of the movement, said its biggest obstacle is to hold the University accountable for promises made to students.

“Michigan has this huge appeal of diversity — or that’s the way that they market themselves,” Brown said. “But when you get here it’s completely different. If you’re going to pay however much money to go here, you should feel safe here.”

The event drew mostly intrigued or confused reactions from the rest of the student body, who found themselves walking around a large circle of protestors, at times 50 to 80 people strong, in order to reach their classes.

“I’ve been getting a lot of questions, like, what’s this about? A couple of people have come up and just thanked us for doing this,” LSA and Education junior Michael Chrzan, one of the protestors, said.

Organizers of We are Michigan said Wednesday's demonstration was just the first of many events for the group, which plans to continue to have a presence on campus.

Potential upcoming projects include working to broaden the race and ethnicity requirement so that it includes components of intergroup relations and, in the short run, building up momentum for the affirmative action Supreme Court case being heard next week in Washington, D.C., Brown said.