The University Record, February 14, 2000

Coalition reps occupy Union tower

Editor’s Note: The information in this article was current as of the Record’s press deadline Feb. 11.

By Jane R. Elgass

Approximately 50 students and other community members gathered on the steps of the Michigan Union Feb. 10 to show their support for the Students of Color Coalition, some of whose representatives began occupying tower space in the union Feb. 6. The early-afternoon rally included remarks by coalition members and the singing of flag and victory songs by a drum group. 'We're here in the spirit of supporting the people who are here and everyone in the tower,' one drummer explained.
The students occupying the tower were specifically protesting the use of the area by the Michigamua Senior Society, which the coalition says uses Native American artifacts and traditions in an offensive manner.
Posters carried by students included such messages as 'President Bollinger--A Committee Can't Fix These Problems--Support Your Students' and 'The Shadows Now Emerge--Now Is the Time to Fight.'
An American flag and a rainbow-hued drape hung from the window of the tower room occupied by the students, as did a banner proclaiming 'Secret Societies Out' and 'Michigamua No.'
University officials hope to meet with coalition representatives this week for a discussion of concerns they raised in a petition presented to the University Feb. 4. Photo by Rebecca A. Doyle
A poster proclaiming “The Shadows Now Emerge, Now Is the Time to Fight,” displayed at a Feb. 10 rally was reflective of rally and protest events last week that included an around-the-clock sit-in in a tower room at the Michigan Union.

Representatives of the Students of Color Coalition began occupying space used by three groups collectively called the Tower Societies—Michigamua Senior Society, Phoenix and the Vulcans—on Feb. 6. The students have indicated they will stay in the tower until the University addresses their concerns.

Their move into the tower followed the presentation to University officials on Feb. 4 of a detailed petition that outlined a wide range of concerns, from increased space and funding for minority programs to a request to drop the use of the term “African American” in all University communications.

The petition asks the University “to sever all affiliation with and subsidy of the secret society Michigamua, which continues its offensive and culturally destructive appropriation of Native American culture through the use of its name.”

Michigamua, formed in 1902, has been meeting in the tower space since 1919, the year the Union was completed.

Five top administrators met with some students Feb. 10—President Lee C. Bollinger, Provost Nancy Cantor, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Royster Harper, Associate Provost Lester Monts and John Matlock, assistant provost and director of the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives.

Bollinger and Cantor hope to arrange a meeting sometime this week with representatives of the coalition that will provide an opportunity for an in-depth discussion of the issues the students have raised.

“We want to meet with representatives of the coalition as soon as we can for a thoughtful and thorough discussion,” Cantor said.

While the focus of several rallies was the University’s relationship with Michigamua, the coalition identified other concerns in the petition.

Items the coalition is asking for include:

  • Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA). “An investigation into the absence during the last five years of full-time staff positions within MESA’s administrative structure for the following: director, coordinators within MESA (Asian Pacific American, Native American, African American (Black), Latino).”

  • Faculty of Color Recruitment, Retention and Tenure. “A written statement indicating that the University will take direct actions to substantially increase the number of faculty of color by commencement of the 2000–2001 academic year (‘substantial’ as defined by a committee comprised of students of color).”

    “An immediate and substantial increase in the number of faculty of color who are tenured at this institution, as well as the development of a program intended to accelerate the tenuring process of faculty of color.”

  • Adequate Space. “Documentation detailing plans to erect structures that serve each community of color, structures which provide venues for events such as lectures, concerts, film/media presentations, et cetera.”

  • Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (CAAS). “The immediate implementation of a program designed to accelerate the tenuring process for all CAAS faculty.”

    “An immediate and substantial increase in the number of tenured CAAS faculty.”

  • Financial Aid. “An immediate increase in the number of scholarships designed to assist students of color.”

  • Student of Color Recruitment, Matriculation and Retention. “Documentation regarding University programs designed to recruit, admit and retain students of color, as well as written statements reporting the effectiveness of such programs.”

    “Formal recognition of the Arab-American community on campus, particularly through the inclusion of “Arab-American” as a classification within applications to the University of Michigan.”

  • Ethnic Studies. “An increase in the number of tenured faculty within Ethnic Studies, as well as an increase in the number of tenure-track faculty within Ethnic Studies.”

    “An immediate increase in the number of courses offered within each Ethnic Studies program.”

    “The immediate implementation of Native American Studies, Asian Pacific American Studies and Latino Studies as degree-granting programs within the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.”

  • Curriculum. “An increase in the number of classes available to fulfill [the race and ethnicity] requirement, including classes which meet the needs of undergraduate students at various levels of study.”

    “The inclusion of all Ethnic Studies/CAAS courses to fill this requirement.”

  • Department of Public Safety (DPS). “Documentation of DPS policies that are pertinent to people of color at this institution.”

    “The provision of records of racial profiling within the Department of Public Safety, with regards to traffic violations, citations of misconduct, et cetera.”