Last spring, Student Voices in
Action, a new student group comprising a wide variety of student
interests, began to pressure the University on a number of issues.
One of the group’s concerns was the University’s
continued recognition of the secret society Michigamua as an honor
society. Largely in response to SVA’s efforts, the University
announced Monday that it has dramatically revised its list of items
that receive honor status on student transcripts. Among those
slated for removal is Michigamua, whose history of abusing Native
American objects and customs clearly justifies this move.

Formed in 1902, Michigamua began as secret organization, with a
membership handpicked from student groups and athletic teams. While
pledging a commitment to diversity, the organization has long held
a reputation on campus of making a mockery of Native American
culture. Group practices and rituals were laced with Native
American references and artifacts.

Well-publicized confrontations with student activists in 1989
and 2000 led to the group abandoning many of these practices, with
the notable exception of its name. Knowingly or unknowingly, the
group was also permitted to retain its official status as an honor
society — complete with official recognition as such on
University transcripts.

Despite its occasionally questionable tactics, the laudable
efforts of SVA, which included protests and meetings with
University officials, appear to have changed that. While Michigamua
should be allowed to exist on campus as a service organization, its
history, its name and its status as a secret society dictate that
the University minimize or eliminate its affiliation with the
group. Other campus organizations have done the same – after
the head of the Multicultural Greek Council, Jaya Soni, accepted
admission to Michigamua at the end of winter semester, a Latino
fraternity and two sororities severed their membership with the
council.

Yet, there are some possible negative repercussions of the move.
While examining the case of Michigamua, the University also began a
long-overdue evaluation of the process by which groups gain honors
status. In cutting the list from 400 down to a paltry eight honors
designations, the University also cut some groups clearly worthy of
recognition, such as the honors departments of individual academic
departments.

Still, the removal of Michigamua and the overhaul of the system
were long overdue. It is in the best interests of the University to
ensure that it not tarnish its reputation as a diverse institution
by affiliating itself with groups that clearly don’t totally
embrace this ideal.

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