Though most students dread the thought of voluntarily waking up before 8 a.m., the Coalition for Tuition Equality did just that Thursday morning to advocate for undocumented student tuition equity.
More than 100 students representing all 17 member groups of CTE — including the University’s chapter of College Democrats and the Migrant and Immigrant’s Rights Advocacy group — attended the protest outside the Fleming Administration Building. Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success, a student organization that uses the arts to promote social equality, planned the early morning event in an attempt to attract administrator attention to their cause. Attendees plastered The Cube in Regent’s Plaza with stickers while carrying posters and banners boasting the protest’s message — “the dream of affordable tuition for undocumented students is too large to be silenced.”
The theme of the event was “My dream is bigger than…” and attendees scrawled messages such as “My documents,” “Michigan Football,” and “Mary Sue” on stickers, posters and chalkboards.
After a few brief speeches and rally cries, the student activists linked arms, creating a human chain around the administration building.
“What do we want? Justice,” they chanted as a few University employees watched from inside the building. “When do we want it? Now!”
LSA junior John D’Adamo, a College Democrats member, led chants and gave multiple speeches throughout the event. D’Adamo criticized University President Mary Sue Coleman for her lack of public response to the coalition’s goals, saying it was inconsistent with the University’s values.
“The (University) president probably uses ‘diversity’ more than any other word in the English language,” D’Adamo remarked to a laughing crowd.
LSA sophomore Sam Hahn stood at the front of the administration building, passing out free coffee and fliers to administrators arriving to work. One woman declined to accept the flyer.
“No thanks,” she said as she headed inside. “I’d better not.”
LSA senior Tatiana Hofmans, a FOKUS member, said as a Jamaican immigrant, she wants to take the initiative to help other immigrant students.
Hofmans said MyDreamIsBiggerThan.com — a website created specifically for Thursday’s protest that allows students to type their dreams and aspirations into a form — will compile the student entries and send mass e-mails to the University’s Board of Regents.
“It’s a creative and fun way for people to get involved as well as see the information about what the cause is all about and why to come out,” Hofmans said.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote in a statement that Thursday’s protesters were respectful and “thoughtful” in their approach to addressing the issue.
“This is a difficult, complicated and important topic,” Fitzgerald wrote. “The University will continue its ongoing collaboration with the coalition and others to develop a practical response that is legally compliant and reflects the University’s core values of fairness to all students and commitment to maintaining a diverse and inclusive community.”
Sanjay Jolly, a Public Policy graduate student and a representative from the University’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the protest was intended to demonstrate to University officials that the fight for tuition equality is enduring.
“All of these events are different ways of engaging administrators,” Jolly said. “There is enormous support for this change and there is enormous opposition to this discrimination against our peers.”