Schlissel, Pollack say White Student Union Facebook page not recognized by University

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 - 7:42pm

After demonstrations sprung up earlier this month calling for improved diversity and inclusion at college campuses across the country, several White Student Union Facebook pages appeared on Facebook this week, including one claiming to be affiliated with the University. 

University President Mark Schlissel and University Provost Martha Pollack contacted Facebook on Wednesday morning and requested the group be shut down, citing unauthorized use of the University’s trademarked seal. The page has since been taken down.

As of 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, the page remained visible on Facebook and had 38 members. The page listed the LSA building as its address. The founding members are not shown on the Facebook group, and it is unclear whether actual University students have any role in the creation of this page.

“We’re a new organization for students of European descent and our allies on the University of Michigan campus, inspired by the spread of other White Student Unions nation wide,” the group states in its page description. “We provide a safe space for white students to air their feelings about our nation's future, discuss and reflect on our glorious past, and begin programs to reclaim that lost glory. We affirm the dignity and ancestry of our proud people who given the world so much in terms of civilization and beauty and are committed to securing a future for our posterity and spirit.”

In a press release, Schlissel and Pollack said the White Student Union is not a recognized student organization on campus.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that over 30 White Student Union Facebook groups have been created claiming affiliation with universities. Some of these groups have already been taken down after universities, such as Princeton University and Pennsylvania State University, reported them to Facebook.

In the release, Schlissel and Pollack said though the University recognizes the importance of the First Amendment and the right to free expression, they wrote that the posting “does not contribute to a thoughtful dialogue.”

“The University of Michigan is striving to create a climate of inclusion, where all our students, faculty, and staff feel they belong,” Schlissel and Pollack wrote. “We want to take this moment to reaffirm our deep and abiding commitment to this goal, and to working diligently, with the entire university community, to achieve it.”

University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier this month, the University held a week-long summit to gather community input as the institution forms a strategic plan for improving campus climate and increasing diversity of the student body and faculty. Schlissel said the summit reflected his commitment at large to diversity on campus, not solely in response to recent incidents at the University of Missouri and Yale University.

“We didn’t launch the diversity, equity and inclusion strategic planning process in the setting of a crisis,” he said in an interview with The Michigan Daily earlier this month. “We launched it in the setting of an ongoing commitment to the public and the students that we serve and to build an inclusive community.”

This story has been updated.