One year ago, terrorist attacks brought together the University community in an unprecedented gathering of students with one voice, asking the questions that needed to be asked and offering answers when someone knew how.
” … We are again staggered by the shock and the grief of losing so many, including 18 Michigan alumni,” President Mary Sue Coleman wrote in an e-mail sent early this morning to the University community. But we persist, because a great university’s faculty, staff, and student body must give voice to our nation’s – and our world’s – unanswered questions.”
“That is what we have done throughout this past year, in pursuing important research and engaging in spirited academic discussion,” she wrote, asking the University to remember and reflect today.
In an initial effort to fulfill that promise of discussion, and to remain accessible to the student body, Coleman mingled with students yesterday in what was, for many students, the first opportunity to come face to face with the new University president.
“There are definitely things that the student body needs to let the president know about, but today I just want to meet her before getting into politics,” said Law student Pierce Beckham. “It is important that administrators have a face.”
Members of student groups attended the reception in hopes of opening a dialogue. “I didn’t come here with the idea that I’d have any meaningful time with her,” LSA senior Veved Jona said. “Just to say the words to her gives her the idea that we’re here and we’re part of the campus.”
As a member of the Michigan Student Assembly women’s issues commission, Jona spoke to Coleman about her status as the first female president of the University, and the hope that brings to women’s rights organizers.
“Hopefully there will be more of a realization that women can advance to high levels,” she said.
Jona admitted she didn’t have a direct connection with the administration before, but said, “there is so much that can be accomplished when student groups work directly with the administration.”
Since Coleman actively participated with the Dance Marathon program at the University of Iowa, LSA senior Michael Mayer hoped to ask Coleman if her support would continue here.
“I wanted to let her know we have a strong Dance Marathon, too. I wanted to introduce myself, ask her to take part in plans and see if she plans to use student groups on campus to get her voice out.” Mayer is the executive director of Dance Marathon.
Members of The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary capitalized on this first opportunity to speak with Coleman about the admissions lawsuits currently under consideration for argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Playing an out-front and political role defending affirmative action is extremely important,” BAMN organizer Luke Massey said.
When asked what impact he believes Coleman will have in regards to the cases, he said, “we’ll see.”
Students unaffiliated with specific campus organizations came to show their support and help ease Coleman’s transition from the University of Iowa to Michigan. “It’s important to make (Coleman) feel welcome,” LSA sophomore Thien Nguyen said.
“She asked about what we are involved in and showed she really cares about students.”
Coleman said she was pleased to have the opportunity to introduce herself to the student body. “This is exactly what I had hoped would happen. I get alerted about things, and that is important,” she said.
This is the first in a series of events she plans to hold in order to meet with students and acquaint herself with University issues.