Very soon after enrolling at this campus, the illusion of inclusivity was shattered for me. Throughout the years this has become clearer, as time and time again I have watched Islamophobia being ignored at the University of Michigan and throughout the country. At the end of my freshman year, I, along with other Muslim students on this campus, was forced to create my own safe spaces due to the University aligning itself with the media’s conflation of Muslim students’ demand for safety and respect as an attempt at stifle others’ freedom of speech.
This experience made me think about the way in which other minorities on campus are marginalized, our shared sentiments and how our oppressions are inextricably linked.
I asked student leaders who have experience working on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion — either within their own communities or with the administration itself — to send me reflections on this issue. I originally conducted interviews with them in late October after the launch of the University’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan. However, in light of the election of Donald Trump, I felt that the conversation needed to be revisited so that these perspectives could be viewed in the context of a dramatic shift in the sociopolitical climate of the United States, a shift that will inevitably affect our own campus.
These students were asked one question: What would you share with the administration regarding diversity, equity and inclusion and campus climate?
As a hijab-wearing Muslim woman it was heartbreaking to me that another Muslim student on this campus would be threatened just for practicing her faith, and yet, I have seen more support from students, faculty, and administration than ever before. The truth is that Donald Trump’s victory is a product of a foundation of fear — built on implicit biases and frustrations that are and have been embedded in this nation for a long time. We must look in the mirror and ask ourselves what this country really is and what we can do in our power to create a more inclusive campus despite this shift.
Now it is more important than ever to have these conversations about what needs to be done in order to create a more inclusive and equitable world. The goal of this piece is to encourage and foster dialogue in a way that personalizes these experiences and allows readers to think of their own ideas.
Executive board of MRAP
Member of the LSA Undergraduate Climate Committee
This election and the rhetoric that has ensued after is not about just politics. I pride myself on being someone who is capable of reaching across the aisle and hearing other viewpoints, regardless of whether I agree with them or not. However, I am not always granted the same opportunity because of my religion and ethnicity. This is especially true now. I see people encouraging others to listen more, but what I am worried about is people not giving my viewpoints a chance simply because I call myself a Muslim. So to me, this election is about much more than just politics — it’s personal. How do I go about engaging in thoughtful and challenging dialogue when people across the aisle will inevitably and automatically see my viewpoints as less legitimate simply because of who I am?
Third-year medical student
Former president of the Black Medical Student Association
I cannot comprehend the cognitive dissonance it takes to value diversity yet believe that students are not academically and emotionally affected by the overt and covert acts of intolerance that occur nationally as well as on this very campus. As a Black, queer, female medical student, it is exhausting to unpack the psychological trauma of attacks on my personhood. When I was leaving the hospital after a night shift, I received a phone call from my dad. He stated that he heard about the racist flyers on my campus and told me he loves me and to be careful. This is 2016. In reaction to “Kill em all” and “purify America” being painted on The Rock post-election, my cousin told me to be careful. I should not be told to be careful because of my race in 2016. A man threatened to set a woman on fire because of her religious beliefs and thus, forced a member of our community to remove her hijab. We have a humanistic obligation to protect those who are the most vulnerable to the manifestation of the hateful rhetoric that has been spewed out across the country. Some members of our community do not feel safe, and safety is a human right — it is an essential part of public health. The University has a responsibility to never be complacent in the face of injustice and needs to critique what aspects of this campus facilitate actions of hate. I stand in solidarity with people of color, my Muslim brothers and sisters, immigrants, women, individuals with disabilities and the LGBTQ community. I will devote my Michigan degree to uplifting, and for me, that is the true Michigan Difference.
Founder of the Michigan Refugee Assistance Program
It’s hard to put into words the disappointment I have felt over the past couple of days. My disappointment has nothing to do with partisanship, but everything to do with the fact that a man, who ran a campaign on white supremacy, racism, sexism and xenophobia, is now our president-elect — and more so, that half of our country supports the sentiments that this individual has propagated throughout his campaign. What this election has affirmed to many of us — women, individuals of color, immigrants, refugees, Black individuals, individuals with disabilities — is that to half of this country, we are simply disposable. I will not wait until this individual has done something to oppose him — it is too late for that. Hate crimes have spiked 78 percent throughout the campaign and are happening on campus. Racism, sexism, islamophobia, etc. have all become legitimized. I hope that many of us remember the shock and pain that we felt to see all of the progress of eight years disappear in the two minutes that put our current president-elect over the edge. And I hope we all make a promise to ourselves to never let something like this happen again. It is time to organize and mobilize, to build coalitions, to lean on one another and reject hatred at every turn. I do believe in us because when I look to the future I see my fellow classmates fighting for a better world beside me. We must remember that out of the darkness comes change; it will not be easy, and it will not be without struggle. But, I’m ready. This is the moment where we decide who we are as a generation; welcome to the fight.
Sexual Assault Prevention Awareness Center
Inclusion and safety are at the core of the University of Michigan’s values and mission; our academic and co-curricular feats would not even be conceivable without the contributions of people of color, Muslim folks, LGBTQ-identifying individuals, indigenous peoples and sexual violence survivors, represented in students, staff and faculty. Some students feel silenced by the University’s support for those who are hurt by the election of Donald Trump and they themselves feel prejudiced by the University for “taking sides.” I, however, implore the administration to keep in mind the structural hierarchies and systems of power, privilege and oppression in place outside of the bubble of our University. The administration should consider centering and prioritizing the voices and perspectives of those community members who have faced structural violence, discrimination and exploitation that has historically and continues today to be validated, justified and perpetuated in our country’s institutions — and now, in the White House. We’re asking, begging you to step up and help us make Michigan the kind of University that it prides itself on being.
Social Work student
People of Color Collective
When you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression. When you are used to everything benefitting you, and suddenly, other voices are being heard more than yours, you’re of course going to feel somewhat left out … We are all aware that Republicans are not heartless folks. However, the Republican candidate built his campaign on hurting others through fear and exclusion. So when people decided it was more important to vote for someone who actively used violent language and made promises to harm large groups of marginalized folks, they should not be calling for those belonging to the threatened groups and their allies to, “get over it.” The hateful acts on this campus have shown that people aren’t accepting diverse groups of people and their right to exist. I’m sorry Republican students feel unsafe, but no one is threatening to light them on fire, deport them or throw them down hills.
MS [Editor’s note: Given the sociopolitical context, safety is something that our contributors have to take into consideration. This contributor, due to a concern for safety, only felt comfortable sharing their initials.]
After the election, I realize how much incidents outside of campus also affect students on campus and lead to incidents on campus. It has definitely been very difficult following the election for me to continue on with daily life and tasks, but this time I have felt that I have received more support than usual. I have had professors, GSIs, students, etc. acknowledge and be cognizant of the fact that the election results definitely affected me in negative ways and will continue to do so. The outpour of support has been very refreshing, and I appreciate all the people that have reached out to me. Students will continue to be negatively affected by incidents off campus as well even if nothing directly happened to them. Everyone needs to stand up, show support and show up. If there is an event/protest/vigil related to incidents on campus, show up and then be willing to learn from the experiences of those that are marginalized. Many of us also carry the burden of past experiences when we come here. Listen, learn how to be an ally and to unlearn the isms and phobias, and be willing to change your view points. Share what you learn with more people on campus and even your families. Ask marginalized folx how they would like to be supported. Maybe what you are saying and doing is doing more harm than good. You can not sit idly and pretend like nothing is happening or undermine someone’s experiences. Think and come up with more preventative measures and learn new ways to support those on campus, especially those who hold marginalized identities and have intersectional identities that make things even more difficult for them. As a PoC and Muslim American, I have always needed everyone’s support and will continue to, so realize that your allyhood is and should be the beginning of your activism.
Member of the SCOR executive board — currently Rackham liaison, former President
The administration has to make these issues relevant to every single student that comes across this campus, regardless of their identities or backgrounds … The biggest question that administration needs to answer right now is how will it protect the safety of the students, both physically and mentally. The outburst of hate crimes on campus and propaganda that appeals to hate and fear is not going to be addressed simply by acknowledging the problem in an email, or several emails for that matter. We need concrete action steps to protect our students, especially our Muslim and Latinx communities who are being openly targeted in election aftermath.
Diversity peer educator in Couzens
The unpaid and unrecognized emotional labor of people of color on this campus has increased. Student organizers and leaders are carrying a lot of weight on their shoulders … What I need from the administration is a continuation and a step further in the messages they have already been sending. While the intentions of their anti-hate campaign are good, I would like to point out that some ideas are hateful and some of the discourse that has been occurring is hate speech. It is not the responsibility of marginalized communities to be re-traumatized over and over again because they are taking the time to educate others about oppression and experiences of hate. As for me, I will continue doing the work that I do to make sure that every single person on this campus, particularly those in my care in my residence hall, are safe and know that I am here for them. I love and support you all, and I will always be there for you.
LSA and Business junior
Involved in DEI efforts in the Ross School of Business
Involved in APIA Vote Michigan — Michigan Chapter
Administrators must earn the right to put diversity on the University’s brochures, website, etc. The University has to provide for its diverse community, and right now, that means making sure marginalized students (Muslim students, students of color, immigrant students, LGBTQ students) are safe. That is a human right that the University has a responsibility to protect. I would tell administrators to genuinely ask themselves if they are doing the absolute most they can; I recognize that they can’t alienate groups of people and they have multiple interests weighing on them, but even given all of that, are administrators honestly doing the most they can to take action for students?
Co-vice president FIMRC
It’s important to include everyone in this conversation because we all belong to different communities and are affected by issues differently, but at the end of the day we are all members of this university. Issues that we face today are not new, but rather they have become normalized given the rhetoric used by political figures, especially as much more visibly hateful messages are surfaced, rather than floating in the background as they have had been in the past.