Community gathering aims to provide students space to speak openly about race

Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - 9:27pm

Students, professors, and advisers discuss racism in the atrium of Angell Hall on Tuesday.

Students, professors, and advisers discuss racism in the atrium of Angell Hall on Tuesday. Buy this photo
Claire Abdo/Daily

 

The University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts hosted a gathering of more than 100 students, professors and advisers promoting solidarity against racism Tuesday night in response to racially charged posters found on campus Monday.

Along with an announcement of the event, LSA Dean Andrew Martin released a statement supporting those students impacted by the incident Monday.

“We stand with President Schlissel and University leaders in condemning the racist posters and flyers spread on campus today,” the statement said. “These posters advocating white supremacy strike at the very heart and soul of the College. Their presence marred our physical spaces—in Haven and Mason halls—where we hold our classes and where our faculty and staff work, and are an assault on everything we believe in as a liberal arts college and as a diverse community.”

Tuesday evening, Martin said he wanted the event to be welcoming in nature, and hoped to foster reflection on the events from the last few days and, more broadly, the climate on campus for the last few years.

“I want each and every student here to know that you are welcome here, and we’re proud that you are here, and your faculty members and your staff that work with you on a daily basis are proud of you,” Martin said.

After Martin's remarks, the gathering was loosely structured, and invited students to engage in individual discussion with one another.

While the flyers were a large part of the conversations, discussions also addressed broader topics of racism on campus and in society at large. LSA freshman Bailey Dozier-Shabazz said she appreciated the opportunity to share her thoughts about the fliers.

“It makes me feel a little bit unsafe, like I’m not even wanted here,” Dozier-Shabazz said.

Students like LSA freshman Carlena Toombs attended the event looking for answers as to how the University would respond to the fliers.

“I came to the event just to observe how exactly LSA plans to deal with the issues such as the racist flyers, because I love the University of Michigan, but I’m still having trouble finding what is the place of the Black students here,” Toombs said.

While Toombs said she appreciates steps taken by the University, she added that the response was not entirely in line with what the Black campus community wants.

“I feel like it’s very hard for (the administration) to do what we, Black students, want them to do, but, at the same time, I appreciate them allowing things like protests to go on, which I feel like is as much as they really can do, politically,” Toombs said

Reginald Hammond Jr., student administrative assistant at the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program, said he thinks the event was a strong beginning to a greater movement on campus.

“This is the beginning of discussions, of building a culture where people feel comfortable expressing how they feel and being in a place with other people who are unlike them who embrace their differences,” Hammond said.

LSA sophomore Chanelle Davis said the flyers were an attempt to hijack the Black experience of oppression.

“It was offensive to me as a Black person, because I feel like people like that often try to take away from what we as Black people or we as people of marginalized identities try to do: get the world to understand why we are oppressed,” Chanelle said. “And I feel like we try to have the conversation a lot and for them to portray things like they’re the ones being attacked, that they’re the ones not being able to be who they are freely is not accurate — it’s not fair to us.”