The recent protest and march to the University President’s house calling for the firing of Athletic Director David Brandon following the gross disregard for the health and safety of sophomore quarterback Shane Morris is an expression of the rising anger over the privatization of the University and its unabashed policy of prioritizing profits over the well-being of students. There is growing desire of students on this campus to take matters into their own hands in the spirit of the mass resistance against racism and police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri. BAMN supports the demand for the firing of David Brandon and Michigan’s coach Brady Hoke, and we call for the organization of a union for student-athletes that will provide protection from dangerous, unhealthy practices and playing conditions, that prevents the University from revoking the scholarships of players who suffer injuries and protects the overall educational and financial interests of the students against the exploitation of the University.
The mistreatment and exploitation of student athletes and the prioritizing of profits is one of the many ways in which the University’s administration has failed to provide a full educational college experience with access to opportunities and safety for all students. Instead, the University has fostered and protected a growing, hostile campus climate, in which safety and opportunities are no longer a priority if they are in the way of profits and against the interests of the increasingly conservative private donors and sponsors.
The hostile conditions on campus have especially affected minority students whose numbers have been dropping to levels not seen since before the 1970s, and increasing numbers of women students who are victims of sexual assault and rape. The University covered for former kicker Brendan Gibbons after he assaulted a female student in 2009 because football profits are worth more to the administration than the safety and well-being of women on this campus. These policies are not isolated to the Athletic Department; they come from top administrators all the way up to the president.
Minority students should not have to accept the degradation of unequal treatment and racist slurs as a condition of being on this campus. Women have a right to be on this campus without living under the constant threat of sexual harassment, assault and rape. We want a truly public university that serves the needs of humanity, not a private business accountable to its private and corporate donors. We want a campus that is welcoming and feels like home to all of us, a place where we all have the freedom to be ourselves, to think, to explore our diverse interests and to develop our talents to their fullest potential, without being exploited in the financial interest of the University administration.
Student movements for progress and equality have defined what is best about this University, not the administration. We can change the conditions on this campus. We must take the example of Ferguson and take matters into our own hands and keep marching until we win.
Kate Stenvig is an University alum and a By Any Means Necessary organizer.