National Action Network protests claim by U-M Flint professor

Monday, February 25, 2019 - 6:52pm

Demonstrators gather outside University President Mark Schlissel's house Monday afternoon.

Demonstrators gather outside University President Mark Schlissel's house Monday afternoon. Buy this photo
Courtesy of Barbara Collins

Monday afternoon outside of the home of University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel, demonstrators from the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network gathered to voice concerns regarding U-M Flint professor Mark Perry’s recent claim against Wayne State University. The claim, filed last week, accused Wayne State’s summer program, Black Girls Code, of race and gender discrimination.

According to a press release, NAN held the demonstration to protest Perry’s claim. They argued Black Girls Code serves to educate and empower a marginalized group of women.

“National Action Network activists are outraged that a University of Michigan Professor would work to stifle a program built to teach and empower disenfranchised, underrepresented, and underserved young women of color,” the press release reads. “In a climate when University of Michigan currently struggles with diversity in faculty staffing and student admissions activist(s) believe that University of Michigan should assess the relation between the professor and the university.”

Fifteen members of NAN attended the demonstration, chanting, “No justice, no peace,” and “Hey hey, ho ho, Professor Mark Perry has got to go.” Rev. Charles Williams II, president of the Michigan chapter of NAN, spoke on behalf of NAN at the demonstration. He said the University’s silence on the issue is unacceptable.

“The University should either decide to send him (Perry) a message making it clear that this is not upholding the ideals of the University of Michigan, or they need to make sure they send out a statement letting the public know that this is not the University of Michigan’s stance,” Williams said. “We are calling on Schlissel, we are calling on the Board of Regents immediately to take a stand on where they are on this issue.”

Williams said NAN plans to take legal action against Perry and will continue to protest until the University addresses the issue. He said the University needs to step up and be more accountable for Perry’s duties as a professor.

“All of those questions need to be answered, and the University needs to answer them,” Williams said. “Don’t put us off on, ‘that’s Flint,’ the buck stops here at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and we know that. We will be back here in Ann Arbor, we will continue to galvanize, whether it’s in the cold or whether it’s in the heat, around this issue.”

Williams later said the underrepresentation of Black children in STEM careers prevents them from opportunities in STEM fields. Relating the situation back to his own daughter, Williams said Perry’s claim is upsetting.

“As one who has a little daughter himself … just thinking about the fact that there’s somebody out there who’s wearing the name of University of Michigan professor who is trying to see if they can dismantle an opportunity for her or for him or for little Black kids to have the opportunity to enter into STEM workforce is unconscionable,” Williams said. “We are calling upon Mark Schlissel to do what’s right and do what’s right immediately.”

LSA junior Yara El-Tawil is an electrical engineering and computer science major at the University. El-Tawil said she values the importance of minority women in the field.

“I think programs like this that give minority women a much-needed leg-up in a field that is heavily dominated by men are valuable and don’t discriminate but serve to level the playing field,” El-Tawil said.

University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen commented on Perry’s claim.

“Professor Mark Perry speaks for himself on these matters,” Broekhuizen said. “He does not speak for the University of Michigan or for UM-Flint, where he has a 50 percent appointment as a professor of finance and business economics.”

Perry filed multiple complaints against 11 University programs last month, alleging these programs discriminate against men.