A Michigan Student Assembly meeting turned into a shouting match last night when members of two pro-affirmative action campus groups took issue with each other on the handling of a rally to support the use of affirmative action in college admissions.
More than a dozen BAMN activists packed the chambers of the Michigan Student Assembly last night to voice complaints about the NAACP’s denouncement of the group’s tactics during Thursday’s rally on the Diag.
The campus chapter of the NAACP said BAMN mismanaged Thursday’s pro-affirmative action rally, projecting a negative image of the black community at the University.
Alex Moffett, an MSA representative and vice president of the campus NAACP, said she wanted to further explain why her organization denounced BAMN’s actions.
But the majority of constituents’ time – when anyone traditionally may express his opinions – was taken up by BAMN members who spoke adamantly about the necessity of affirmative action, rather than explaining why the rally allegedly got out of hand last Thursday.
But some members of BAMN did try to directly address the issue of the group’s tactics during their allotted time.
The NAACP claimed that when BAMN bussed in hundreds of students from Detroit public schools to participate in the rally, they did not handle the kids effectively because they were roaming through the Michigan Union, Angell Hall and the Diag. NAACP also claims that the middle and high school kids seemed to have no involvement in the rally beyond attending the event. The NAACP also noted the profanity and combative language shouted by Detroit students at the rally as evidence of BAMN’s improper handling of the event.
BAMN members said they had communicated with the Detroit students prior to the event, but they failed to address Moffett’s allegations of mismanagement of the event.
“I’ve given hour-long presentations on the history of affirmative action to students in Detroit,” BAMN member Liana Mulholland said.
BAMN member Tristan Taylor said he had also gone to schools in Detroit and knew many of the students at the rally by name. He spoke about the importance of establishing equality in American education.
“No one expects white students to learn in the conditions that black students are forced to learn in every day,” he said. “We refuse to be second-class citizens.”
Moffett said she didn’t disagree with BAMN about the importance of affirmative action and the dire state of Detroit public schools but said these were not the issues at hand.
“(BAMN) failed to acknowledge that they didn’t properly prepare these students to come to participate in the rally, and they didn’t accept responsibility for the damage they caused to the image of black students on this campus,” Moffett said after the meeting.
Before constituents’ time started, MSA President Jesse Levine moved unsuccessfully to limit the speakers’ list – which in the past has been open to all who wish to address the assembly – to University students.
Members of BAMN and the assembly were appalled with Levine’s move, which they saw as an aggressive form of censorship.
“The way Jesse tried to chair the meeting (was) absurd,” said Ben Royal, a Rackham representative and BAMN organizer. “This is a perfect example of what happens when black youth attempt to speak out against racism – there are attempts to silence them and call in the police.”
Officers from the Department of Public Safety were called prior to the meeting. Levine explained that his intention was to keep the meeting under control and ensure the safety of students at the meeting.
Levine expressed specific concerns about BAMN organizer Luke Massie, who attended the meeting.
“Luke Massie has advocated violence in the past and is not a constituent,” Levine said.
Moffett was verbally assaulted by a BAMN activist during the meeting, who yelled out, “Alex, are you scared to be black?”
Levine read the heckler an order to cease and desist harassment and warned the activist that if another outburst occurred, the perpetrator would be asked to leave. There were no other instances of verbal assault.
“I think that Jesse had the best interests at heart,” Moffett said. “I know his move (to limit the speakers’ list) was not discriminatory. I think he wanted to avoid having the meeting erupt into a shouting match, the way it eventually did.”
MSA General Counsel Russ Garber said that while the timing of the motion to limit the speakers’ list to only students might have been poor, he trusted Levine’s motivations.
“I think his intentions were to control the meeting as best he could.”
Members of BAMN and other MSA representatives were more skeptical.
“It’s obvious why this is being applied now,” Mullholland said.
MSA representative Reese Fox took issue with Levine’s decision to limit the speakers’ list.
“This move lacks total foresight for the future,” Fox said, “This precedent will block outside experts from speaking in the future.”