Michael D. Wood’s Letter to EMU President

Dear President Smith:

I am a Secondary Education: Language, Literature, & Writing major here at Eastern Michigan University from Flint, Michigan. Flint is still enduring a water crisis and is one of the most poverty stricken and violent cities in America. I say this to infer: where I come from it is not enough to be smart, you have to have heart. My time at EMU is supposed to be a pathway to a better life and an environment where I do not have to live under intimidation, oppression, and intolerance. This has not been the case and while I endure many microaggressions everyday on campus the blatant and repetitive hate speech and terrorist actions have exposed EMU to have a race problem. This has been a traumatic experience which has affected me emotionally, physically, and mentally. While I have “heart”, this semester is weighing heavily upon me and others.

To be a student at a Predominately White Institution (PWI) is a confining experience, but we do not exist in a vacuum where we are not affected by the world we live in. Many have stated that the blatant racist actions on campus has been brought on by our national election. Maybe it has, but all I know are my experiences this semester at Eastern Michigan University. I am struggling with my entire class load because I am mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. Compounding the stress and depression from enduring these hate crimes, I am grieving my mother and recently deceased grandmother and aunt. I currently have a $1,626.25 E-Bill for a class I am struggling with. Why am I paying for classes at a university that is neglectful of its Black student body in a non-inclusive, racist environment? 
There have been six instances of racially charged vandalism and hate speech on campus which includes:

—“KKK, Go Home Niggers” on King Hall

—Hands Up, “Harambe” on the painting block

—Calls to Student Residence Halls asking how it feels to be on campus with gorillas and etc.

—“Leave Niggers” on Ford Hall

—“Niggers” in Hoyt Hall elevator

—“Niggers” in Wise Hall

The racist messages spray-painted and written on campus buildings are not art, this is not graffiti. This is vandalism, this is hate speech, this is terrorism. And it should be treated and viewed as such. These messages are not directed only at Black students, but at faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and visitors. These intolerant, discriminatory, and offensive messages are attacking each and every demographic, community, and human occupying this campus. I call on everyone to rally and support the black community.

President Smith and other EMU administration has stated that EMU supports peaceful protest, but yet I and three other Black male students have received letters from Student Code of Conduct regarding peaceful protests. The attempts to instill fear in the student body to not protest or act against the University has completely disillusioned many students. How can Eastern both support student’s peaceful protests while simultaneously discouraging and sanctioning them for doing so? Why has Eastern Michigan University failed to publicly acknowledge and state that Black Lives Matter if they stand with us? The persecution from Eastern Michigan University has compounded the emotional and mental trauma I, and many other students, have been enduring throughout this semester. Shouldn’t EMU be working to support students and finding the perpetrators of these heinous and disrespectful acts?

Eastern Michigan prides itself upon their diversity and nearly 20% Black student population, but have provided little resources and attention to support and aid them. Accompanied by the current racial climate on campus the graduation and retention rates of Black students support this claim. The lack of a Diversity Officer, DCI Director (Diversity Community & Involvement), Multicultural Center, increased funding to Multicultural Affairs, and designated spaces for black students only enlarges the issue. Eastern Michigan University has failed to complete one demand of the Black Student 10 Point Plan that was presented in November 2015 at the Institutional Racism Forum. So this begs the question, does Eastern truly value and respect its Black students?

Until students and our organizations are satisfied that people of color feel safe and valued at Eastern Michigan University, I strongly discourage any person of color to attend this university. Any incoming or transfer student in hopes of attending a university that values, respects, and ensures the safety of their students should not come to Eastern Michigan University. For those students who already attend Eastern I recommend you transferring to Historically Black Colleges & University (HBCU) or another university that can ensure the safety and value of black lives. 
Our pain and anguish has been met with intimidation and degrading and offensive posts consistently and repetitively. The Faculty Senate has chosen to support their students and attempted to contact the President’s Office, but you have not yet personally responded and that is grossly negligent. It is my hopes that as a student I receive a favorable response.

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.

The Protests Will Continue Indefinitely,
Michael D. Wood

[Editor’s note: Ann Arbor News and Detroit Free Press on EMU’s targeting of Mr. Wood and his fellow protesters.]

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