Chronicle of what students did at the Univeristy of Michigan in February and
March of 2000. They protested against racism on campus, and our very own
President Bollinger was in charge there too. After reading the articlkes below,
many students expressed anger over the Michigan incident, saying "it looks
like Bollinger has been practicing his duck for cover strategy of writing dodgy
statements for a while..." 2004 and the Struggle Continues....
U-M students end 37-day sit-in at secret society's office
The Associated Press
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Protesters at the University of Michigan on Monday
ended a 37-day sit-in at the office of a secret campus society accused of
mocking and misusing American Indian customs and artifacts.
Michigamua, whose members have included former President Gerald Ford and late
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy, has offices in the tower of the
Michigan Union, decorated like a wigwam.
On Feb. 6, a group of minority students occupied the seventh-floor office atop
the tower of the Michigan Union and demanded that Michigamua be expelled.
The protesters said the 98-year-old society had not honored a 1989 promise
to drop the use of "Native American culture and pseudo-culture" from
In addition to the eight students occupying the office, as many as 100
supporters of the Students of Color Coalition slept outside the locked tower
door. Others brought in food or did laundry for the protesters. The
protesters left at 3:45 p.m. Monday, university spokesman Joel Seguine said.
"They said they felt they had gotten all they could out of being in the
tower," he said.
In a news release, the coalition expressed disappointment with the university's
response to its complaints. "It has become clear that the university
administration, President (Lee) Bollinger and Michigamua have no intentions of
honoring the 1989
contract, nor are they willing to adopt the necessary degree of sincerity and
honesty that would allow all parties to reach a fair agreement," the
The students left after genuine and pseudo-Indian artifacts were removed from
the Michigamua office Monday, Seguine said. He said they were taken to the
university's Natural History Museum for safekeeping. Michigamua records
were returned to its leaders, he said. The university had said it did not intend
to use campus police to end the sit-in.
Statement from Joseph Reilly
February 27, 2000
Response to President Bollinger's February 25th Statement
For the past 21 days the Students of Color Coalition have occupied the Michigan
Union Tower in protest of three secret "honorary" societies. Our
primary concern has been with one of these societies, Michigamua, because of the
racism imbedded in the behavior and practices of their organization.
For the past three decades the Native American community at the University of
Michigan has attempted through dialogue, negotiations, and formal complaints
with Michigamua, University Administration, and the Michigan Civil Rights
Commission, to heal the institutional disease created by Michigamua.
For the past ninety-eight years the University of Michigan has conspired in the
destruction of a culture through direct institutional support of and involvement
We will no longer allow our culture to be enslaved, raped, and prostituted by
Michigamua or by the University of Michigan. We stand together to seek a
positive and just resolution to a disease that has plagued our community for
too many generations.
We have demanded that the University disassociate itself from and sever its
unique institutional relationship with Michigamua and the other two secret
societies housed in the Michigan Union Tower. Our demands have been met with an
inadequate and unacceptable response from University Administration.
We have raised valid concerns of a hostile campus climate created by an
organization predicated on the stereotyping and humiliation of a specific
racial group. The University has answered with the formation of a panel
to discuss the issue of student organization office space, but has failed to
confront the underlying reality of direct institutional support of an
organization that, despite legal agreeme nts, continues to subscribe to racist
and culturally destructive practices and behaviors.
In 1989 a written legal agreement was reached between Michigamua, the
University, and a Native American student in which Michigamua acknowledged
the behaviors and practices of their organizations as being offensive to
Native American people. In the contract Michigamua agreed to eliminate
all references to Native American culture, pseudo-culture, and parodies and
extensions thereof. The Office of the President has kept a copy of that
agreement since its signing on November 1 of that year.
It is unfortunate that, despite repeated attempts by the Native American Student
Association and other student organizations and individuals to appeal to
administrators for the enforcement of the agreement, the University of Michigan
has maintained a position of willful negligence. Just as Michigamua's traditions
of exploiting Native American culture and religion has continued into the year
2000, with the exception of several high- level administrators who are members
of Michigamua, the trend of careful administrative neutrality has been
maintained under the current administration of President Lee C. Bollinger.
In his most recent statement on February 25, our president made no mention of
the racial implications inherent within the organization of Michigamua.
Instead he chose to remain hidden behind values of the First Amendment and free
speech rights and focus solely on the issue of office space allocation to
student groups, a process that is already existent through the Michigan Student
Assembly. Of course First Amendment rights are a valuable and important part of
the University community, yet are not the rights to live in an academic
environment free of negative stereotyping and ethnic intimidation equally
important? How can one aspect of the constitution be used to manipulate the
intent of the entire document in serving its purpose for providing liberty and
justice for all?
We hope that the University of Michigan and President Bollinger will find the
courage to confront the issue of institutional racism within this public
university. We cannot leave the tower and allow for this racism to be
reincarnated in this public facility under the guise of free speech.
President Bollinger must make the bold stance to protect the rights of Native
American people, and act according to not only the proclaimed values of the
University but to the intent and purpose of the entire United States
Constitution. We are confident that President Bollinger has the wisdom and
ability to make such clear decisions and affect positive change in
the interest of guiding this institution in a healthy direction as we enter this
Dear Member of the University Community:
The recent protests about the Michigamua student organization have raised an
important issue regarding the University's policy on the allocation of office
space to student organizations. Currently, there are three student organizations
in the tower of the Michigan Union whose offices are not subject to periodic
review and reallocation. There may be other such organizations in other
facilities throughout the University. Space allocation is a serious and
important question for the University. Office facilities on our campus are
at a premium, and it is important for
us to examine whether space is currently being allocated in a manner that is
fair and equitable to all student organizations. Interim Vice President for
Student Affairs Royster Harper has recommended and I have agreed to initiate a
process to examine our policies and practices on space allocation for student
groups with particular attention to the question of under what conditions, if
any, a student organization should be entitled to space which is not subject to
a periodic assignment process, review and potential reallocation. Interim Vice
President Harper will immediately establish a panel comprised of three senior
administrators from the Schools and Colleges to examine and make recommendations
on this issue. The panel will gather public input in a variety of ways including
holding public hearings to solicit student, staff, faculty and community member
panel will work expeditiously and make its recommendations before the end of
the term. The University will then make a decision about the assignment
use of the Michigan Union tower and any other exclusively assigned space that
exist. In my view, those decisions must be made in a way that does not penalize
any group for its views or beliefs and yet fully considers history and past
practices. During the course of this process, the three student groups that
currently have offices in the tower have voluntarily agreed to refrain from
The University must create a learning environment where each student
is intellectually engaged and participates fully. This requires a climate of
openness, respect and tolerance. Day in and day out we are actively engaged
in cultivating this climate through activities at every level in the University.
For example, I have recentl established a commission, chaired by Provost and
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Nancy Cantor, to look broadly at
the undergraduate experience. Among other things, the commission will be
examining our recruitment and retention of students and faculty, our
interdisciplinary programs, including ethnic studies, and other programs that
relate to improving the climate on our campus for all students. The Schools and
Colleges are also engaged in a variety of creative efforts to improve the
learning environment and our students
themselves are working at numerous activities to ensure that their peers feel
welcome and that student voices are heard and respected on our campus. Improving
the learning environment for all students is a priority. I am committed to this
goal and will continue to engage in the important conversations that are
occurring about the climate here for all members of our community.
Lee C. Bollinger
March 8 2000
Students of Color Fight Racism at Univ. of Mich. with Month-Long Occupation
By Elizabeth Martinez
Since Feb. 6, the Students of Color Coalition (SCC) has occupied the
tower of the University of Michigan Union building to protest ongoing
racist practices on a campus that claims to have a longstanding commitment
to multiculturalism and diversity. These practices affect faculty, student
recruitment and retention, and curriculum. For the SCC, they are symbolized
by a secret society housed in the tower, the Michigamua.
The 100-year old Michigamua has a long history of desecrating or otherwise
mocking Native American culture. Despite a 1989 contract in which it formally
pledged to cease such actions, Michigamua has continued its degradation. This
includes using for itself the original, native name of the state (Michigamua,
meaning Big Lake), giving members "Indian" names, and calling its
office "the wigwam."
Groups of faculty and staff have signed statements of support for the SCC. But
U.M. President Lee Bollinger has met only once and inconclusively with the
protesters, made misleading statements, reduced the issue to one of "space
allocation," and offered no concessions. Recently he said he never would
have supported the 1989 agreement if he had been on campus at the time, pointing
to the society's First Amendment rights. He has called the SCC action
unreasonable yet he yielded in 24 hours to an all-white group that had occupied
another building to demand U.M. cease purchasing from sweatshop manufacturers.
As of March 7, students expect police action at any time. Meanwhile, five to
seven students continue to occupy the tower office. Students of color and
supporters have carried out many creative, militant actions to support their
demands. In a single day, they took over the microphone at a lecture about to be
given by President Bollinger on the First Amendment, and read a statement. Later
some 70 SCC members and supporters crowded the lawn of Bollinger's home and held
a barbecue, with balloons and signs on display. At a basketball game with UM and
Purdue that evening, supporters crowded the court at halftime, holding up a
banner that said STOP RACISM and gave the SCC's unofficial web site address.
The SCC began with a protest at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Symposium; when
Henry Louis Gates was to give the keynote address, students took over the
microphone and called on the administration to live up to its multicultural
commitment. With the occupation, the SCC is demanding that the university cease
supporting Michigamua by providing it with exclusive use of space in the tower
(other student groups have to apply annually for space).
But SCC concerns reach much farther than that. It has presented a detailed list
of problems in every arena of campus life that require action. One area is
the faculty of color. The enrolled undergraduate students of color totaled 26%
in 1996 and graduate students of color were 23%. Yet out of 1,305 full
professors in 1998, 42 were African American, 68 were Latino, and one was Native
American. Just 1% were women of color in 1996. Among the 2,660 tenured or
tenure-track instructors, 15% were of color in 1998. They included 128
Black and 68 Latino teachers. Women of color provided 4% of that category. In
the professional schools the ratios are even worse: in the Law School, for
example, with 21% students of color in 1996 there was a grand total of 8%
tenured or tenure-track faculty of color with 2 two of them black faculty.
As for curriculum, the Ethnic Studies situation is grim. It is not possible to
get an M.A. or Ph.D even in the long established African and African American
Studies program. In the case of Asian Pacific American, Latino and Native
American Studies, each is housed under the American Culture Program and students
cannot major in any of those ethnic studies components. Latino Studies has two
tenured faculty, each spending only half-time there. The Director is on leave
next semester; no arrangements have been made to fill the position.
And so it goes, with many other deficiencies listed. Most have been addressed by
previous protests, and remain unresolved. The students need support!
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