June 3, 2020
Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), Graduate Rackham International (GRIN), Rackham Student Government (RSG), and Students of Color (SCOR) stand in solidarity with and in full support of the Black graduate students, undergraduate students, lecturers, staff, faculty, and other workers at the University of Michigan and in Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn. We also stand with those who are protesting in support of Black lives across the state and the entire nation in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th and the violent assault of our neighbor Sha’Teina Grady El in Ypsilanti on May 26th at the hands of law enforcement. Our organizations are jointly issuing this statement to call directly on our graduate community and university leadership to act in the wake of national outcry against racist state violence enacted upon Black individuals at the hands of police who are never held accountable. While expressions of solidarity are heartening, it is time to back this up with tangible, material support and with active challenges to systemic anti-Black racism on our campus and within the community which Black community members have fought against – for years. We need real steps to protect Black students and scholars on our campus from police violence.
President Schlissel has sent out an email to the whole university community to express his sympathy in response to the recent intolerable racism, along with posts from Chief Diversity Officer Robert Sellers, the Office of the President, and Rackham Dean Mike Solomon. In addition to the condemnation, we strongly urge the university to take effective measures to address institutionalized racism and help prevent similar incidents in the future.
We, GEO, GRIN, RSG, and SCOR, call on the University administration to do the following:
- Include a graduate student voice on the panelists for the Friday town hall. This town hall should supplement, not replace, existing and unmet demands for action from the UM administration expressed by Being Black at UM and other organizing efforts.
- As a large public research university, we ask for immediate investment in scholarship and research activity that addresses racial inequity and systematic inequality in addition to deliberate investments in the professional trajectory and well-being of Black scholars and their work.
- Departments need to re-evaluate tenure hiring criteria to more seriously consider diversity service work as this has been shown to be disproportionately placed on racially and ethnically underrepresented scholars.
- Provide immediate guidelines and training materials to members of the community. Specifically,
- Guidelines for all instructors, faculty, and staff on how to make their classes inclusive, address issues of racial inequity in their classrooms, and include this information in relevant mandatory trainings.
- Offer bystander intervention training to students for when they come face to face with racial injustice, such as through the CRLT players.
- Expand the Alternatives to Violent Force trainings at UMich-Dearborn to all campuses.
- Begin immediate disengagement from police forces known to engage in discriminatory practices at the University of Michigan. This should follow practices laid out in the University of Minnesota President’s statement to students, faculty, and staff; and initiate the demilitarization and disarmament of campus police.
We also call upon the entire graduate community at the University of Michigan to show solidarity and support for the Black community, and suggest the following ways to do so. While this is not an exhaustive list, it provides a starting point.
- Be present at protests and rallies while practicing safe social distancing with personal protective equipment such as masks.
- Sign petitions.
- Donate to organizations that support and empower the Black community, and help eradicate police brutality:
- Donate directly to those affected by police brutality:
- Create and/or share resources to help educate people about institutional racism.
- Have conversations with your friends and families to help educate everyone on racial issues.
- Contact your legislators and ask them to vote for and co-sponsor legislation supporting black communities. While state legislatures may not be in session right now, you can advocate for federal legislation, asking your representative to co-sponsor a bill and/or vote for a bill.
- You can find your US representative here. If you live in Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti, you are likely represented by Representative Debbie Dingell. Her contact information is available on her website linked above.
- While you can search for other bills and resolutions here, we suggest supporting Representative Pressley and Omar’s latest resolution ‘Condemning Police Brutality’ and Pressley’s H Res 702, ‘The People’s Justice Guarantee.’
- Stay informed and follow groups such as
- Attend Friday’s town hall (announced by President Schlissel yesterday evening via email).
We are here to advocate vigorously on your behalf to ensure that the University of Michigan and the Rackham Graduate School are held accountable for supporting its Black graduate students. As a university that prides itself on its commitment to diversity, inclusion, justice, and equity, now is not the time to remain silent or neutral – it is time to walk the talk.
GEO, GRIN, RSG, and SCOR