Online petition backs university's Black Student Union members who threatened 'physical action'
An online petition is asking the University of Michigan to “take all appropriate means to address” a list of seven demands made Monday by its Black Student Union (BSU).
"They want special treatment and separate treatment based on their race. That’s something that the civil rights movement has fought against for decades.”
“The University of Michigan's lack of sustained commitment to diversity and the public good has fueled student protest,” wrote the petition’s author, one Lester Spence, who called on “proud University of Michigan alumni” to urge the school to “take all appropriate means to address the claims of Michigan's undergraduate black student population.”
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the BSU threatened “physical action” if the university failed to address a list of seven demands the group had created, which included requiring the university to teach the “historical treatment and marginalization of colored groups through race and ethnicity requirements” and allocating “emergency scholarships” for black students in need of financial support.
The students say their actions are motivated by the recent decrease in the black student body and gave university officials a week to comply.
The university will meet with BSU leaders on Friday.
BSU Secretary Geralyn Gaines said that the response to the BSU’s activism has been mixed; responses from emails have been positive, but most of the online comments have been decidedly negative. Some of the users called them “racists”, “terrorists” and “buffoons.”
According to Gaines, “[ninety-seven percent] of the comments are negative and they’re not from students of color. They’re mostly white students making comments.”
Jennifer Gratz , an equal-opportunity activist, opposes the students’ demands.
“They want special treatment and separate treatment based on their race. That’s something that the civil rights movement has fought against for decades,” she said.
Gratz became well known for her U.S. Supreme Court case regarding the University of Michigan’s affirmative action admission policy in 2003. The admissions policy was eventually ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court because it violated the Equal Protection Cause of the 14th amendment.
In addition to the U.S. Supreme Court case, Gratz championed the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative in 2006, which banned the use of affirmative action in college admissions and state hiring practices.
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide later this year if the voter-approved ban is constitutional.
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