Schlissel announces campus-wide discussion on race to address racially charged posters

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - 6:55pm

In a community-wide email Wednesday night, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel announced a campus-wide discussion to address racially charged posters found in Mason and Haven Halls early Monday morning.

The posters, which included “reasons why women shouldn’t date Black men” and the science behind “race differences in intelligence,” have sparked a series of protests and events on campus over the past few days. The University released a statement Monday afternoon condemning them.

In his e-mail, Schlissel called for the University community to support one another, and announced a campus-wide discussion on race and the recent events to be held on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Rogel Ballroom of the Michigan Union.

He wrote that the University would be planning a series of similar events in recent months in conjunction with his Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative, a year-long push to create a strategic diversity plan for campus. The plan is set to be announced Oct. 6.

“We are working to convene conversations on our campus to hear what students are experiencing, offer support, promote healing, and discuss the roles we each might play in preventing discrimination and creating a more hospitable community,” Schlissel wrote.

He also noted the impact the events have had on students, repeating the University’s earlier condemnation of them.

On a more personal level, I am both angered and frustrated by this episode, the pain it is causing, and the underlying prejudice it represents,” Schlissel wrote. “Many students have told us they are in great pain. They experience these messages on a very personal level and in the context of violence and discrimination happening across our nation and around the world.”

Several protests and events have occurred over the past few days in response to both the fliers, and to a debate held Tuesday by the student organization Michigan Political Union over the merits of the Black Lives Matters movement. The first protest occurred Monday, when students gathered in Angell Hall to protest the posters found earlier in the day. LSA also hosted an event Tuesday night for students to gather in solidarity and in support of each other regarding the flyers.

Additionally on Tuesday, hundreds of students gathered to protest a debate sponsored by student organization the Michigan Political Union, which was slated to discuss the merits of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Though the organization planned the debate before the fliers were discovered, many protestors pointed to current campus climate as one reason for protesting the debate.

Students also chalked the Diag early Wednesday morning with messages of solidarity for Black students.

Schlissel has been absent from both the protests and gatherings thus far, though other administrators have attended, including LSA Dean Andrew Martin and E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life. University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said Monday Schlissel was out of town.

In his email, Schlissel stressed his disappointment in the week’s events and the importance of maintaining the University’s central values to offer support to those affected, encouraging students to take further action in confronting hateful speech, and acknowledging future work is necessary.

“As we implement the plan, we will invite our community to continue to share their experiences. In developing the plan – and in our daily interactions on campus – we understand that there is much work to do to prevent discrimination,” he wrote. “I hope you will not hesitate to participate in these conversations in the months to come and commit to actively collaborating in our shared efforts to help shape a more welcoming, equitable and inclusive third century for the U-M.”