On Tuesday evening, the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government met virtually to discuss a resolution calling for the removal of former University President James B. Angell’s name from Angell Hall and the Angell Scholar Award. They also discussed the upcoming CSG elections and possible reforms to election code.
The Assembly discussed and ultimately passed AR 11-048, which would call on the Board of Regents to rename the University building Angell Hall and the Angell Scholar Award, a distinction given to students who receive grades of all A’s for more than two consecutive semesters. In addition to the name change, the resolution calls upon the provost to implement a course that would teach students about the “racist foundations (upon) which the University of Michigan was built.”
This resolution comes as a response to Angell’s role in drafting the 1880 Angell Treaty, often cited as the precursor to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act that severely restricted Chinese immigration to the U.S. LSA senior Eman Naga co-sponsored the resolution, emphasizing the treaty’s problematic past.
“He laid out a treaty that would restrict but not completely eliminate Chinese immigration,” Naga said. “(Angell) gave the opening for legislators to push forward the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.”
Public Health senior and CSG President Nithya Arun, the other co-sponsor, said another reason for the resolution was the Order of Angell’s historic appropriation of Native American culture, a now-disbanded society that Angell helped form. Order of Angell officially disbanded in March following criticism from recent classes about the organization’s racist and elitist history, as well as allegations from members that the society created a hostile environment for people of color.
“The Order of Angell wasn’t always called the Order of Angell,” Arun said. “It was called Michigamua before, which he also signed off on, (a name) which obviously appropriates Native American culture.”
Mahnoor Imran, Public Policy junior and advocacy chair for United Asian American Organizations, expressed the coalition group’s support for the resolution. She cited key takeaways from last Wednesday’s teach-in regarding the legacy and complicated history of Angell.
Imran said she hopes the bill can serve as a jumping-off point for future institutional action by the University to alleviate the harms caused to affected communities.
“A name change is just one step, and it does not substitute for restorative or transformative justice,” Imran said.
The resolution was initially set to be introduced in Tuesday’s meeting, then referred back to the Communications Committee for any revisions or amendments before being read and voted on at a second Assembly meeting. However, Committee Chair and Engineering junior Zaynab Elkolaly called for the resolution to be voted on during the same meeting.
“To my understanding, this needs to be enacted as soon as possible,” Elkolaly said.
LSA and Engineering sophomore Allan VanZandt questioned the need to vote on the resolution without first pushing it through the normal review processes.
“On big, important resolutions (like this one), I think it’s more important that we give it more review as is due,” VanZandt said.
Elkolaly pushed back on these remarks and said that failing to quickly address racism would reflect even more poorly on CSG.
“We’re debating a racist policy and a racist system,” Elkolaly said. “Every day that we allow it to exist is another day that we’re complicit in the system that it perpetuates.”
The measure to vote on the resolution ultimately passed with the exception of one nay and one abstention. The resolution itself later passed with the same margins.
The Assembly also introduced and discussed AR 11-047, a resolution seeking to reform elections code to make it more accessible to students and increase voter turnout. This comes ahead of the Fall 2021 CSG Elections, which will take place on Nov. 17 and 18. The resolution was referred back to the Rules Committee for further discussion.
CSG also went through a series of confirmations, which included six ex-officio members of the Assembly. In addition, LSA sophomore Meera Herle was confirmed as Senior Policy Advisor for Environmental History, while LSA sophomore Tiffany Crews and Engineering freshman Bella Wash were both confirmed as Central Student Judiciary Associate Justices.
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