University of Michigan faculty gathered outside the C.C. Little Building Thursday afternoon to take part in an informational picket in support of recent student activism calling for the renaming of the building. Faculty members distributed flyers pointing to former University President Clarence Cook Little’s support for eugenic, anti-immigrant and anti-miscegenation movements as reason to change the building’s name.
The picket event was an initiative organized by Faculty for Justice, a coalition proposed by three faculty members in a letter addressed to all University faculty earlier this week. As stated in the letter, the group exists to “issue collective public statements, share information about student-led protests, and help initiate and organize faculty action in support of our students.”
The letter included a listserv where faculty members could sign their name in support and enroll as a member of Faculty for Justice. As of Thursday afternoon, the petition gathered nearly 400 signatures.
The three faculty members behind the letter, associate Philosophy professor Meena Krishnamurthy, associate History professor Amanda Armstrong-Price and Antoine Traisnel, an associate Comparative Literature professor, led the creation of the group and Thursday’s picketing across their departments.
Armstrong said it was equally important to raise awareness about C.C. Little, support student activism and stand in solidarity with student actions and concerns.
“We came together with some other faculty members because we felt that there should be more of a concerted response and show of solidarity on campus towards students organizing against racism on campus,” Armstrong said.
The picketing was an important first step for Faculty for Justice.
“Among our faculty and colleagues there is a demand for having a more concerted effort for supporting students who protest and act against racism and white supremacy,” Traisnel said. “We felt that often we left our departments to be in charge of writing statements and we didn't know how to respond ourselves, so we decided to create this group, Faculty for Justice.”
“The goal is in many ways to let students take the lead and we want to act in solidarity with them,” Krishnamurthy said.
Education professor Debi Khasnabis joined the picketing, passing out flyers to students as they passed by. Khasnabis said she teaches her students about the importance of creating safe, inclusive environments for K-12 students, and believes the same should be done for students at the University.
“I don’t think it’s right for our students to feel unsafe,” she said.
Some students passing through the faculty-lined walkway in the building continued walking, while others stopped to discuss the issue.
LSA freshman Vishal John was impressed by the involvement of the faculty and viewed their willingness to speak out as an encouraging response.
“Based off recent events that have been happening on campus I think it’s important to address these issues,” John said. “I think it's good that they're actually talking about these subjects instead of avoiding them or remaining silent.”