Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Intellectual Minds Making a Difference has a clause in their constitution prohibiting executive office members from being affiliated with Order of Angell.
After accepting a tap to join Order of Angell — an exclusive senior honor society previously known as Michigamua — LSA senior Chatoris Jones was forced to step down from his leadership positions in both the Black Student Union and Intellectual Minds Making a Difference organizations.
Both groups reexamine the standing of members holding leadership positions if they partake in Order due to its historically discriminatory past. Order has been criticized for its use of Native American culture, including its former name that was changed in 2007 and its engagement in Native American rituals that the group ceased following a 1989 agreement.
Vidhi Bamzai, Order of Angell spokesperson and Public Policy senior, wrote in an e-mail interview that removing Jones due to his affiliation with Order is unjustified and ultimately negatively affects the quality of student groups and campus life.
“The point that Order of Angell is discriminatory is false,” Bamzai said. “Rather, Order is one of the most diverse organizations on campus, bringing together student leaders from across campus and bridging gaps between gender, religion, ethnicity, background and sexual orientation.”
She added that while Order has a history of discrimination against Native Americans, the group strives to be transparent and separate itself from “its antiquated, yet tumultuous history as Michigamua.”
Jones said he was aware that BSU — a group that sponsors programs related to African heritage and culture — would be upset he decided to join Order, since they have a clause in their constitution prohibiting members from holding executive positions if they are involved with the organization. Despite this, he said he was still disappointed the group asked him to leave after working together for three years.
“I’m upset that I have to leave an organization I’ve been a part of since freshman year,” Jones said. “It’s like the work I’ve done has been overlooked.”
BSU spokeswoman Samantha Martin explained that Jones was asked to step down from his position as treasurer in the group because his actions violated BSU’s constitution and that they provide no exceptions to their policy.
“As an organization, we don’t support any affiliation with the Order” Martin said. “Therefore, any members associated with Order cannot be part of BSU.”
Intellectual Minds Making a Difference — an organization that mentors disadvantaged youth in Detroit — also asked Jones to leave his position as co-chair. Jones said he is still allowed to be involved with the group, but cannot hold a leadership position because the group believes his affiliation with Order will affect campus participation in Black Welcome Week, an event that seeks to assist black freshman with adjusting to life at the University.
IMMAD could not be reached for comment as of yesterday evening.
Jones said he believes there are many problems that need to be addressed pertaining to relations among campus groups, adding that he joined Order because he views the group as a way to mediate dialogue about issues between organizations on campus.
He added that many departments at the University have been supportive of Jones and his decision to fight against his removal from leadership positions in BSU and IMMAD, including the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives.
John Matlock, executive director for the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, met with Jones on Thursday to discuss the situation and offer his support. Matlock said the department has dealt with similar issues before, adding that Jones’s case is difficult because it doesn’t fit the “clear-cut” definition of discrimination in federal law or University policy.
Matlock said he strongly encourages increased dialogue surrounding conflicts that arise between campus organizations.
“There’s going to be a bigger discussion over the summer … We’ll look at the ramifications and how students are impacted based on what groups they’re involved with,” he said.
According to Jones, Order of Angell has been very supportive of his decision to overturn his removal from the organizations, with members of the society offering to walk him to class to provide additional security.
“They have backed me like a long-time friend,” Jones said.
— Because of her membership in the Order of Angell, Editor in Chief Stephanie Steinberg did not edit this story.