By Ian Dillingham, Summer Editor in Chief
Published April 24, 2014
After two hours of protest Thursday afternoon, members of BAMN secured one victory — promise of an open meeting to discuss the admissions decisions for several minority applicants to the University.
BAMN — the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary — staged the protest following Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision to uphold Michigan’s ban on the use of race in the admissions process as part of a larger push to encourage the University to rethink its admissions policies regarding minority applicants. About 30 members of the organization were present on Thursday for the rally and march, which was the second this month.
After rallying in the Diag, protesters marched down State Street and South University Avenue before entering the University’s Office of Admissions in the Student Activities Building. While first demanding to speak to members of the admissions staff, they were eventually met by James Holloway, vice provost for global and engaged education, who listened to the group’s criticisms and answered questions for about an hour.
Several of BAMN’s national organizers, including national BAMN chair Shanta Driver, were present at the demonstration. While individual BAMN members leveled a myriad of demands against the University’s administration during the protest, Driver said the organization’s only demand was for a public meeting with admissions staff to discuss what the organization deems “racist” admissions policies at the University.
“Everybody here wants to hear the answers, and there’s no reason in the world not to have such a meeting,” Driver said.
In particular, BAMN organizers called for the University to reevaluate the admissions decisions of four students — Daisha Martin, Mario Martinez, Brooke Kimbrough and Alfredo Aguirre — who were rejected from the University despite considering themselves qualified candidates.
Martinez, who attends Cass Technical High School in Detroit, presented Holloway with a copy of his application and appeal during the protest.
“We think now, more than ever, given what happened at the Supreme Court, that it is incumbent on you to admit Mario — and other students like him — to accept their appeals and bring them onto this campus, because they deserve to be here,” Driver said.
While Holloway denied that University admissions policies were in any way racist and declined to comment on any individual student’s admission decision, he said a public meeting was a reasonable proposal and agreed to arrange such an event if given permission from the four applicants.
“I’d like to disagree with the notion that we fling the doors open for any students,” Holloway said. “It’s a very selective institution … It’s a competitive process for all students.”
The protesters also called for several other reforms, such as financial aid for undocumented immigrants attending college, the implementation of a “10 percent plan” — currently utilized in Texas — which would guarantee students in the top 10 percent at Michigan high schools admissions to the University, and the reformation or elimination of standardized testing.
BAMN national organizer Kate Stenvig said programs like the Texas 10 percent plan have demonstrated that such testing does not predict success in college.
“I think the SAT and ACT are completely biased and everybody knows it, including the testing companies, including the University,” Stenvig said. “Those test scores don’t measure how well a person is going to do.”
Though conversation at the protest repeatedly circulated back to individual admissions decisions, Holloway said the larger process of University admissions cannot be judged on the experiences of individual applicants, given the wide variety of factors that are considered for each applicant.
In the past, BAMN has been critical of the University's attempts to cite Proposal 2 as a reason for declining minority enrollment on campus, claiming viable alternatives are available. But Holloway added that, with the court’s decision Tuesday, the University is still legally constrained in its abilities to consider certain factors — primarily race — in the admissions process.
“I don’t think we’re declining students out of high school because we’re hiding behind a Supreme Court decision,” Holloway said. “We look at students individually to see how they will fit in this institution, how they will bring success to themselves and to the institution.”
However, Jose Alvarenga, an undocumented immigrant and prospective University student currently attending community college, said the meeting represents a step in the right direction. He remained hopeful that the organization would use the event as a platform for their “new civil rights movement”, announced at a press conference Tuesday.
“We definitely want to expose all the flaws — the racism in the admissions policies,” Alvarenga said. “I think we’ve made a point … that we’re not going to take ‘no’ for an answer.”