Schlissel sends email to student body condemning hateful incidents

Sunday, November 13, 2016 - 7:51pm

After a week of protests and discussions on campus following President-elect Donald Trump’s shocking victory in last Tuesday’s presidential election, various act of bigotry and hatred have occurred on University of Michigan’s campus, and University President Mark Schlissel sent out a campus-wide email to “speak out against these behaviors” and provide resources for students experiencing bigotry.

Schlissel’s email — signed by prominent University administrators like Provost Martha Pollack, Chief Diversity Officer Rob Sellers as well as Rackham student Chukwuka Mbagwu and LSA senior David Schafer, presidents of Rackham Student Government and Central Student Government, respectively — follows a crime alert released yesterday reporting an alleged assault of a Muslim woman by a man forcing her to remove her hijab. The man threatened to set her on fire if she did not remove her scarf. Other incidents mentioned in the email include a student finding a swastika and hateful message written on the door of his apartment and multiple instances of students being targeted verbally for their political views.

Reports of the alleged violent intimidation of the Muslim woman have spread across mainstream news outlets from CNN to the Washington Post. In his acknowledgement of the incident, however, Schlissel misspelled hijab as “hajib,” and then sent out a subsequent corrected email.  

“Emotions are high all across the political spectrum,” Schlissel wrote in his email. “We hope all members of our community can agree that we must not stand silent while facing expressions of bigotry, discrimination or hate that have become part of our national political discourse.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center documented 201 reports of hateful incidents nationwide last week from Tuesday evening to Friday afternoon. Amid a wave of national post-election protests against Trump, students on campus took stands against violence targeting marginalized groups. LSA junior Darian Razdar called on more than 1,000 attendees at a vigil last Wednesday for stronger displays of solidarity.

“Don’t fall to the silence of a racist and homophobic society,” he said. “Be there for those of us who need it.”

In his email, Schlissel applauded students for coming together in the wake of the election.

“While we are deeply concerned about the many incidents of hate and bigotry that have occurred recently, we are also buoyed by the way in which many in our community have come together to support each other,” he wrote.

LSA senior Vikrant Garg emailed the email's signers about the misspelling, and wrote in an email interview to the Daily he thought the typo invalidated student frustration.

“It was literally a hate crime and people feel unsafe on campus and to see it misspelled by a note from the president feels invalidating,” Garg wrote. “I emailed so many directors of communication? Who missed this?”

Rackham student Bayane Alem, a Muslim woman who wears the hijab, wrote in an email interview she was unperturbed by the misspelling.

"It doesn't matter to me that much," she wrote. "He tried. But also I get people's frustration. Like if your email is in a response to an attack because of a hijab, then yeah, maybe you should make sure you get it right."