University to end controversial Michigan Ambassador program

Friday, September 18, 2020 - 5:04pm

Student ambassadors patrol campus in August.

Student ambassadors patrol campus in August. Buy this photo
Courtesy of John Grieve

Members of the Michigan Ambassadors program will no longer patrol streets near campus, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel announced Friday. The change comes amid concerns related to over-policing at the University and criticism of the program from multiple organizations on campus. 

The Michigan Ambassadors program was implemented over the summer — with input from Central Student Government leadership — to serve as a “visible reminder” of the need to follow public health guidelines. Ambassador groups were comprised of students, adults and unarmed Division of Public Safety and Security members. Students were paid $11 per hour for participating in the program.

In an email sent to the University community Friday evening, Schlissel announced that the ambassador program will be discontinued after receiving feedback from groups on campus and “the need to continually evolve amid the changing conditions of the pandemic.”

“The initiative changes also include discontinuing the use of students, faculty and staff to canvas surrounding campus neighborhoods through the Michigan Ambassador program,” Schlissel wrote.

Ambassadors were on duty from noon to midnight during the week before classes began — dubbed “Welcome Week” — but only ran Thursday through Saturday for the following two weeks. The University set a hotline for reporting concerns at 734-647-3000, designed to “reduce the need for law enforcement as a first response,” as well as an option for students to register their campus address and contact information so they could be reached to resolve issues before any intervention took place.

Initially, the program featured armed police officers accompanying the ambassadors. After facing criticism for over-policing and the disproportionate impact policing has on people of color on campus, the University announced on Aug. 30 that armed officers would no longer join the ambassadors on their patrols. 

Despite the change, some in the University community continued to oppose the program. Four prominent multicultural student groups on campus published an op-ed in The Michigan Daily calling for it to end, citing concerns of over-policing of communities of color. CSG President Amanda Kaplan and CSG Vice President Sav Nandiagama released a statement signing onto the op-ed, saying they felt “angry and betrayed” by University leadership for including armed officers in the program.

Part of the demands of the Graduate Employees’ Organization strike, which ended Wednesday night, included “de-militarizing campus” and diverting funds from DPSS.

DPSS and the Ann Arbor Police Department will continue to monitor the campus and the surrounding areas through “their regular work,” according to Schlissel’s email. 

The email also announced that, beginning in October, the COVID-19 surveillance testing program will be able to test 6,000 participants a week compared to the current 3,000, and the University will utilize saliva-based tests. 

Daily News Editors Emma Stein and Alex Harring can be reached at enstein@umich.edu and harring@umich.edu.


The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.

For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.