On April 9, LSA senior Solomon Lucy, a resident adviser at Mary Markley Residence Hall, posted an Instagram video showing the bulletin board hanging in his hall vandalized with several papers torn down. Lucy’s board had featured posters celebrating Black History Month and Women’s History Month with photos of prominent Black women in history alongside a photo of himself as an introduction for his residents.
When Lucy walked by the bulletin at 3 a.m. on Friday, April 8, the board was destroyed and several of the photos were missing.
“No Black RA, student, faculty member, etc should EVER feel unsafe and targeted on this campus,” Lucy wrote in the caption of his Instagram post. “Although this truly breaks my heart, I am DETERMINED to bring more awareness to the situation & fight for change for the betterment of future Black wolverines & Black RAs to come.”
Lucy also posted the video to Twitter on April 9. Faculty, students and various campus organizations shared photos and thoughts in the comments section of Lucy’s post to express their support.
Rackham student Mario Gaviria responded to Lucy’s tweet, criticizing the University’s lack of support for marginalized communities on campus.
“@UMich !?!?” Gaviria wrote. “Y’all need to actually do something concrete bc all these ‘diversity committees’ and ‘diversity trainings’ don’t accomplish anything other than providing the illusion that y’all actually care — when in reality you don’t. This is unacceptable.”
Following the incident, Lucy posted multiple signs in his hallway calling attention to this vandalism incident targeting students of Color at the University of Michigan. The three flyers called out the “ignorance,” “privilege” and “racism,” saying each “is very much real and … very much lives in this hall.”
Shortly after Lucy posted these new signs, however, they too were torn down and scattered across the floor in his hall, which Lucy said he noticed Saturday morning.
“Initially, I was a little hurt, but (later) I was more angry and upset and hurt,” Lucy said. “It’s 2022, and Black people on this campus have been experiencing things like this forever. It’s sad that we’re still fighting for the same things that people were fighting for during the first Black Action Movement and still asking for respect and dignity when that should be something that’s given to everybody here.”
The Black Action Movement represents a culmination of three movements between 1970 and 1987 that called on the University to improve its policies supporting recruitment, enrollment and campus experience for minority groups at the University. Through decades of activism, the movements fought for increased representation and safe spaces on campus for marginalized communities.
BAM’s efforts included the creation of the William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center — a space on central campus that has historically fostered an inclusive climate for intercultural engagement and students of Color. Recently, however, Trotter has been at the center of controversy after one student wrote an article in The Michigan Review criticizing students of Color for expressing concerns about “white students crowding, and more so colonizing” the space.
Art & Design Professor Rebekah Modrak wrote in an email to The Michigan Daily that she printed 400 copies of the original posters Lucy had displayed on his bulletin board for others to display. Modrak is a member of Community Advocates, an informal group of lecturers, faculty and students who advocate for campus issues such as COVID-19 policies, sexual misconduct and workers’ rights.
In the email, Modrak confirmed that copies of the posters were hung on the office doors of at least 264 faculty members in solidarity with Lucy.
“We hope this sends a clear message that Black voices on this campus will not be silenced, and instead will be amplified,” Modrak wrote. “We’re disgusted and angry by the racist vandalism and hope that reproducing Solomon’s bulletins across campus brings attention to what’s happening and puts some pressure on the administration to investigate and take hate crimes seriously.”
Melissa Overton, Division of Public Safety and Security (DPSS) spokeswoman, wrote in an email to The Daily that DPSS is currently investigating the case. As of Thursday, she did not confirm whether a suspect had been identified, but she wrote that there would be consequences for the perpetrator(s).
“This case is currently assigned to a detective in the Criminal Investigations Unit,” Overton wrote. “If the suspect is identified, they can be charged with a misdemeanor crime of malicious destruction of property.”
As of April 18, Overton said the case has not been identified as a hate crime.
“The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office makes the determination on what charges are filed, however at this time there is no evidence that it is a hate/bias crime,” Overton wrote. “We currently have it listed as a Malicious Destruction of Property.”
Director of Housing Rick Gibson wrote in an email to The Daily that the University is committed to campus safety and a non-discriminatory working environment.
“We do not condone any harmful or destructive acts to property or public spaces, such as the destruction of an RA’s information board earlier this week,” Gibson wrote. “This sort of behavior is in direct opposition to our community standards and fails to show the culture of care and respect that we expect of all U-M students and Housing residents. Each student has both the right to and the responsibility of maintaining this culture.”
Gibson also wrote that students should respect the personal belongings of their fellow residents in on-campus housing. Gibson suggested R.A. bulletin boards have been vandalized in the past.
“Though the number of reported instances of torn or ripped bulletin boards this year has been typical, we strive to create spaces where all community members feel included, welcomed and that they belong,” Gibson wrote.
Gibson wrote that Housing has a reporting system they rely on to help determine who is responsible for the vandalism; DPSS will also determine whether the offense constitutes criminal behavior.
“M Housing’s Diversity and Inclusion team is dedicated to providing support and follow-up when identity-related incidents occur,” Gibson wrote. “The response work depends on the situation and what the resident or staff member would like to see happen. In incidents where we do not know who specifically is responsible for the act, we organize community conversations and support to address the expectations of living in a residential community.”
LSA senior Kaitlyn Plummer, a Mary Markley R.A., assisted Lucy in creating and posting a second group of signs calling attention to the vandalism on April 8. Plummer said she felt frustrated to learn about what happened to Lucy’s boards and the signs they created the following day.
“It was really frustrating to me because it’s happening to someone I consider a friend who’s a great R.A. and really puts in a lot of work,” Plummer said. “For him to be disrespected like that is really frustrating to me.”
Plummer said disciplinary action must be taken if cases involving racially-motivated harassment and crimes occur within the housing environment.
“I think that whenever something like this happens, there needs to be disciplinary action and the person needs to not be able to live in the house anymore, or it needs to be on their record,” Plummer said. “Honestly, it needs to be something that is known … This is hard for us R.A.s to live through, so it needs to be uncomfortable for (perpetrators) as well. It shouldn’t be that they get to torment Black students, Black R.A.s (without accountability).”
Plummer also discussed her thoughts on the torn-down bulletin board and said targeting the boards of Black and Brown students can be negatively impactful on a personal level.
“We’re also required to make these bulletin boards every month, so it’s also our time being wasted as well as disrespectful to us as R.A.s,” Plummer said. “And after the rip down, we have to make another one, (because) it’s a part of our duty to make these bulletin boards and to make events that make our residents feel safe. And so when that effort has been disrespected, it hurts on a personal level. But the fact that has been done all year, targeting Black and Brown students, also makes it personal but also shows that it’s a structural problem and it’s a campus-wide issue.”
Plummer also described another incident in Markley in which a lounge named for Dr. Angela Davis, a Black activist, was vandalized and trophies were stolen from the lounge..
“This isn’t a one-time thing, this isn’t the first time … Black students have been targeted on campus this year,” Plummer said. “In Markley … there was a vandalization of the Angela Davis Lounge. Dr. Angela Davis is a known activist — her lounge was vandalized.”
LSA senior Sophia Raines, another Mary Markley R.A. who also helped Lucy create the signs that were torn down on April 9, said racism within dorms and housing on campus has continued to be a prevalent issue on campus.
“I think that racism, bigotry, intolerance, and privilege (is) very much alive on this campus,” Raines said. “I think it really shows up in one of the most impactful and toxic ways in the dorms … It’s sometimes hard to feel totally comfortable with these residents and feel completely safe.”
The Daily obtained a copy of a statement from Central Student Government on April 18, calling on the University to act quickly on investigating this incident and to promote a culture that does not tolerate silencing voices on campus.
“The news of the incident in Mary Markley Hall is shocking, disturbing, and painful,” the statement reads. “We stand in solidarity with Solomon Lucy and our fellow Black Wolverines who were part of this instance of the systemic subjugation of marginalized voices on campus. Central Student Government will work tirelessly throughout the coming year to alleviate the decades of bigotry and hatred Black students have faced on this campus.”
Lucy said there are many similar cases affecting Black students on campus, suggesting that the University needs to address what happened to him as a part of a campus-wide issue.
“I just want (students on campus) to know that this incident isn’t isolated, and things like this, unfortunately, happen here at Michigan a lot and often,” Lucy said. “The only reason that it’s this big of a deal right now is because I brought light to it. I’m sure there are so many times when Black students face things (at the University), and they simply don’t say anything because they feel they won’t be supported or they feel that they’ll be attacked. So I just want the University community to know as a whole that we still have a lot of work to do to make sure that our voices are heard.”
Daily Staff Reporter Nirali Patel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed statements from Housing Director Rick Gibson to Public Affairs Specialist Dana Elger. The article has been updated to correctly attribute all quotes to Gibson.
Update Monday, April 18: This article has also been updated with a statement from DPSS spokeswoman Melissa Overton clarifying this case has not been identified as a hate/bias crime. An April 18 statement from the Central Student Government was also updated to this article.