Michigan Community Scholars Program holds solidarity event

Sunday, September 17, 2017 - 10:57pm

LSA sophomore Travon Stearns speaks to students from the Michigan Community Scholars Program after a racist slur was written on his door in West Quad on Sunday.

LSA sophomore Travon Stearns speaks to students from the Michigan Community Scholars Program after a racist slur was written on his door in West Quad on Sunday. Buy this photo
Brain Kosasih/Daily

 

On Sunday night, more than 100 students from the Michigan Community Scholars Program learning community gathered in the Multipurpose Room of West Quadrangle Residence Hall to show support and solidarity against the racist vandalism that targeted three Black student residents.

David Schoem, director of MCSP and an adjunct associate professor, led the event.

“We feel terrible that in our community they had to experience those disgusting things that were put on their doors, and we want to show our support and love,” he said. “We hope you will feel that we are all here to express that to you.”

Schoem said such actions are meant to threaten and intimidate members of the community, but it will not be tolerated. He said an attack against one is an attack against all.

Wendy Woods, associate director of MCSP, compared the hateful incidents occurring in West Quad to such an incident happening in someone’s family home.

“In other words, it happened in your home,” she said. “That is probably one of the ways you might most make someone feel violated or insecure — by actually coming into their own home and putting up something like that. It’s just like if you are living in your homes at home and you come home and your house has been broken into.”

Woods noted in her time addressing MCSP, she has recognized it as a brave community.

“We’re not talking about free speech in this instance, we’re not talking about coming up and talking to someone and exchanging views with them,” she said. “To do (this), to deface room or where they live, basically is an act of cowardice.”

Angela Dillard, the associate dean of undergraduate education in LSA, was next to take the floor.

Dillard said the LSA Dean’s Office has been actively in contact with the President’s Office, targeted students and greater community to determine how the University will best respond to the crime.

“We advocate on behalf of all undergraduates at the University all the time. ... We really want to try and do a better job building relationships with students this year,” she said. “We think it’s going to be another tough year, we think that this stuff is going to keep happening, that it’s going to keep testing us and it’s going to test our resolve and our ability to respond and to respond well.”

John Seto, the director of Housing Security, also spoke, emphasizing the event is under investigation.

“We take these types of instances very seriously, this is going to be investigated, and it is a priority,” he said. “Housing Security and University Police have already started investigation and have made contact with the residents that have been impacted.”

Seto also affirmed Housing Security’s support for students, saying students may notice more security officers in the halls and encouraging students to reach out if they have questions.

Engineering senior Chloe Henderson, a resident adviser in MCSP, said she and her only two Black residents were targeted.

“I’m just disappointed more than anything else. … People should be ashamed of themselves — the people who did this — they should be embarrassed,” she said. “If anyone has any of idea of who did this, or if you did it, I encourage you to come forward. … This is very serious.”

Students were made aware of resources they can turn to in response to for support in response to this at: specifically, the Dean of Students Office, as well as the Bias Response Team — a group of professional staff who assist in managing incidents of bias.

Students were also encouraged to write the expressions “We stand together for social justice” and “#mcspstandstogether” and tape it to all of the doors in the living community.

After the speakers addressed the attendees, students broke into small groups to reflect on the incident. The Daily was asked to leave for this portion of the event.