A coalition of six progressive campus organizations held its first mass demonstration yesterday afternoon.
The group, Campus Unite!, gathered a patchwork of protesters into a single rally outside of the Fleming Administration Building yesterday afternoon.
The rally was used as a staging event for the public comments period of yesterday’s University Board of Regents meeting, during which several Campus Unite! members addressed the board on a variety of issues, including the University’s investment in military contractors and concerns over sweatshops.
The rally’s attendance peaked shortly after 3 p.m. – which is when the regents meeting began inside – with about 80 people in attendance.
Students covered part of the Cube in cardboard signs stating the coalition member groups’ specific aims. The Cube’s was wallpapered with phrases like “Divestment from Halliburton” and “No Drop in Minority Enrollment.”
Representatives from the member groups took turns speaking to the crowd about the central issue of their organizations. Each speech ended with students banging on a drum – with a peace sign painted on the side – which was strapped into a baby stroller.
The rally’s goal was to show the University’s Board of Regents how the issue-driven groups were connected, said LSA sophomore Blase Kearney, one of the rally’s organizers and a member of Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality.
By about 4 p.m., the rally had died down, with many participants going inside to observe and speak at the regents meeting.
During his remarks to the board, LSA freshman Yousef Rabhi called the rally and Campus Unite! “a sign of growing student solidarity on campus.”
Rabhi also raised allegations that members of the Sweatfree Coalition were not included on the speaker’s list, although they had made requests through the board’s website before others who spoke.
Nancy Asin, assistant secretary of the University denied the allegations, saying speakers are determined on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The board’s comments policy says that up to 12 students, faculty, alumni or community members can each be given five minutes to address the board. Eleven people were scheduled to speak at yesterday’s meeting, although only 10 ended up doing so.
Asin said the students may have been confused by an automated response from the website, which notifies the person that the request has been received but does not confirm a place on the speaker’s list. Asin said that the concerned students had not contacted her office prior to raising the issue at the meeting.
In accordance with their observed policy, regents did not respond to any of the speakers.
The member organizations of Campus Unite! are Student Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality, Students for a Democratic Society, the Graduate Employee Organization, By Any Means Necessary, Anti-War Action and the Michigan Student Assembly’s Environmental Issues Commission.