UMich students demand more paid 'diversity labor'

Toni Airaksinen
New York Campus Correspondent

  • The University of Michigan's Graduate Employees Organization is demanding that the school pay more students to perform "diversity labor" on campus.
  • A pilot program currently employs six students to promote diversity and social justice, but the GEO wants that number increased to 23 in order to make campus "more livable, and survivable."
  • Students at the University of Michigan are demanding that the school pay more students to do “diversity labor,” saying the six students already employed aren’t nearly enough.

    In April, at least 250 students staged a sit-in at the school to advocate for paid diversity labor, according to The Michigan Daily, which resulted in the school hiring six graduate students, who now receive $9,868 per semester their work.

    "It's about making the campus climate more livable, and survivable."   

    [RELATED: Oberlin paying student to conduct ‘social justice education’]

    But the school’s Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), which represents numerous graduate students, is now calling for the school to hire at least 23 students, with Jennifer Piedmont, the head of the GEO’s diversity committee, telling Campus Reform that making the school “survivable” requires more diversity labor.

    Diversity labor, she said, is “about making the campus climate more livable, and survivable,” adding that graduate students should be compensated for everything they do to “survive and thrive in their departments” while fighting “against enduring structures of oppression or stratification” on campus.

    [RELATED: College encourages profs to become ‘social justice fellows’]

    If the administration agrees to the GEO’s demands, Piedmont hopes that more students will be hired to conduct “diversity labor,” including “teach-ins, research on department climate and solution evaluation, curricula development,” and holding “office-hours” for students who want to discuss diversity issues.

    Thus far, the school has not agreed to the demands, and it is unclear if it is seriously considering their implementation.

    Rick Fitzgerald, a school spokesman, told Campus Reform that the six students currently working the job are part of a “pilot project.”

    [RELATED: University paying students to be ‘social justice advocates’]

    “We want to make sure that the program is working effectively and that there is demand from units across campus before we consider expanding the program,” he explained, noting that the school hopes to ensure that the positions actually provide students with “educational value.”

    Notably, the GEO recently organized a “support” event for students to “stop” Richard Spencer from speaking on campus, urged members to vote against the Republican tax plan, and staged a sit-in to call for an 18 percent pay hike for graduate students.  

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    Toni Airaksinen

    Toni Airaksinen

    New York Campus Correspondent
    Toni Airaksinen is a New York Campus Correspondent, where she reports on free speech issues and social justice research. She is a senior at Barnard College, majoring in Urban Studies and Environmental Science. She is also a columnist for PJ Media, and formerly held a post with USA TODAY College, The Columbia Spectator, and Quillette.
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