Today marks the third anniversary of a blatant act of discrimination in Ann Arbor. On Nov. 8, 2008, the Chinese Student Association and Filipino American Student Association hosted a club night at Studio 4 to celebrate the organizations’ events that weekend. The student organizations had negotiated a contract with the club’s management to divide the night’s cover: 50 percent going to Studio 4, and 50 percent to be split between CSA and FASA.
Earlier that afternoon, CSA president Steve Lai discovered the club was promoting another event that evening. Lai called the club to confirm that this would not impact their agreement. Reese Mangray, son of club owner Jeff Mangray, told Lai that the cross promotion would not affect their contract. Assured, the students went through with their club night at Studio 4.
At the end of the night, Lai and FASA president Ashley Manzano approached Mangray to collect their share of the cover. Jeff, however, refused to pay Lai and Manzano the amount agreed upon in the contract. Instead, he insisted he would only pay for the “50 Asians” there that night, who he had tallied on his clipboard. Lai and Manzano explained that not only did they bring non-Asian friends to the event, but the contract stated that the organizations were to receive 50 percent of the entire cover, not just 50 percent of the Asians’ cover. Mangray countered that he believed many of the attendees were there for the cross-promoted event. Despite Lai and Manzano’s repeated explanations, Mangray refused to honor the contract and ejected the remaining students from the club. Outside, the confrontation escalated; Reese launched into a verbal tirade, spitting at some of the female students and calling them “skank ass whores.” The students chose to leave peacefully to avoid an altercation.
Later that night, the younger Mangray called Lai, threatening not only to shut down the student organizations, but also to find Steve and “settle this tonight.” Lai refused to respond to his comments and said they would talk after things had calmed down. The following morning, Lai received a call from Jeff Mangray, who still only wanted to pay for the “50 Asians” that he had tallied. Eventually, Jeff Mangray agreed to pay the full amount, but by then, Lai, Manzano and the Asian American organizations on campus were too offended and outraged to accept any money from Studio 4.
Following the incident, CSA and FASA approached the United Asian American Organizations, a coalition of many Asian American organizations on campus, to organize a formal response against Studio 4. The response included a campus-wide boycott that was supported by the Michigan Student Assembly, which passed a resolution to refuse funding for events held at Studio 4 and launched an investigation of the incident. UAAO also worked with the Office of Student Conflict Resolution to mediate negotiations with Studio 4. The club management, however, ignored requests to engage in mediation. Since the incident, Studio 4 has not offered any apology for its unprofessional and discriminatory behavior that night.
Unsurprisingly, Studio 4’s history contains a plethora of other incidents and complaints. On June 3, 2010, Studio 4 was finally closed after the city of Ann Arbor filed a lawsuit against the club, declaring it a “public nuisance” to the city. A day earlier, police arrested three people after a fight involving at least one suspect with a handgun. The city also cited numerous liquor violations and unpaid taxes in its suit. After two years of numerous incidents with the police, this dangerous and noisome landmark was shut down at last.
This is where you would expect the story to end. A dangerous club with shady owners had finally been brought to justice. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. The Mangrays ended up re-opening the club under a different moniker: Dream. On Sept. 3, 2010, a mere three months after the closing of Studio 4, Dream Nite Club was open for business. What has since followed is more of the same. On June 2, 2011, the city of Ann Arbor filed yet another lawsuit against Dream. In the suit, the city cites a fight where three people were stabbed and another in which a man was shot, among other grievances. Dream was again closed for a few weeks but has since reopened.
We wrote this viewpoint because we fear that the campus community suffers from a four-year short-term memory. The current seniors are the only students who were around when this incident occurred. We want to ensure that even after they graduate, the campus continues to be informed of this bias incident and continues to fight against discriminatory practices. If your organization is planning a club night, please think twice before hosting it at Dream. By hosting or attending an event at Dream, you are implicitly supporting a business that has no qualms with disrespecting its patrons and dishonoring its contracts. We hope that the next time Dream is closed down, it will be for good. We also hope that nobody else is racially profiled, verbally abused, spat on, stabbed or shot in order for this to happen.
Jeff Liu & Steve Su are engineering seniors. They are writing on behalf of the United Asian American Organizations.