Last week, in the face of ongoing campus and community pushback against Eastern Michigan University’s targeting of Black student protestors, Media Relationship Manager Geoff Larcom announced to MLive that, rather than follow the ACLU’s recommendation to drop all disciplinary charges against students, EMU was going to dig in its heels:
“EMU Police and the Conduct Office are continuing to investigate the matter,” Larcom said. “Many of the students who stayed in the building refused to provide their names or IDs. As additional identifications are established, they also will be subject to the student conduct process.”
Yesterday we learned that the university had issued disciplinary summonses to an additional eleven Black students, bringing the total to fifteen. We’re infuriated, but not surprised (glance at the bios of these Regents—all but one of whom are white Snyder-appointees—and you’ll get a sense of why campus protest activity might be met with repression rather than compassion). It’s not only a dumb move, it’s also a dangerous one. As one EMU student put it:
Notice since EMU started taking action against students, the racists have stopped. They’re satisfied with EMU doing the job for them.
The longer EMU Regents and administrators continue to harass the Black students who are organizing to counteract expressions of hatred left around campus by white supremacists, the more it is that white supremacists—on campus, in town, across the county—receive this message: If you inflict trauma on our Black students, we’ll close the loop by bringing them into the disciplinary system when they speak out about it.
Add to this that it’s the end of the semester for these students, and you’ll understand why it’s imperative each of us let these and all Black students know we’ve got their backs.
Please let me know of upcoming actions I could attend to support these protests and the targeted students.
It’s worth noting that this issue has never been about the students’ right to demonstrate or protest. The University has supported and encouraged those efforts throughout. The issue here is violating a student conduct policy that specifically references occupying and refusing to leave a closed building.
It’s also important to note that no sanctions that have been issued that include expulsion, nor has any action been taken that would delay or deny students’ progress toward their degrees.
Eastern Michigan University encourages our students to exercise the right to express their views on matters of public importance and matters that are important to them. EMU has always and will continue to support the rights of our students to peacefully demonstrate on issues of importance to them.
Over the past two months, the University has worked diligently with our students to manage the variety of protests peacefully, and with a great level of appreciation and respect for students’ anger and frustration over the incidents that have occurred. Not a single student has been arrested or expelled as a result of their participation.
Note the football game video below, in which the University worked diligently with students during a very tense demonstration scene, a night in which the students were able to go on the field and make a statement. The same is true of the march to the President’s house on Sept. 20, in which the President and administrators spoke to students for more than an hour and a half.
Our commentary appears in brackets:
It’s worth noting that this issue has never been about the students’ right to demonstrate or protest. The University has supported and encouraged those efforts throughout. [Although you did line up four different law enforcement agencies to “protect” football players from “possibly dangerous” protestors.] The issue here is violating a student conduct policy that specifically references occupying and refusing to leave a closed building. [Recall Jim Clark, Sheriff of Dallas County, Alabama, 1965.]
It’s also important to note that no sanctions have been issued that include expulsion [To be technical, “suspension”—although the real issue here is sending summonses to these students, period], nor has any action been taken that would delay or deny students’ progress toward their degrees. [The comfort of your class/skintone is evident here; you’re unable to imagine that some of these students would feel threatened, going into finals week, by assaults from both racist vandals as well as from racist disciplinarians, in an American context in which acts of white hate have skyrocketed, your incoming U.S. president (voted for, incidentally, by all but one of your bosses) is promising to ban/evict Muslim Americans, and is also vowing to crack down on the movement for black life. Context is all, Mr. Larcom, and if EMU administration doesn’t begin to factor it in, we all vow to keep fighting until these summonses have been trashed.]
Eastern Michigan University encourages our students to exercise the right to express their views on matters of public importance and matters that are important to them. [Unless these students are Black or Muslim, in which case: expect cops, expect punishment.] EMU has always and will continue to support the rights of our students to peacefully demonstrate as they did in the student center on issues of importance to them. [We note the Trumpian flair for repeating falsehoods—.]
Over the past two months, the University has worked diligently with our students to manage the variety of protests peacefully [Chief Heighes with his camera in their faces; Michigan State Police telling them to back the fuck up], and with a great level of appreciation and respect [“Due to unacceptable conduct violations, you are being summoned …”] for students’ anger and frustration over the incidents [You deploy euphemisms like “incidents,” rather than clear descriptors like “hate speech,” perhaps because it’s primarily your brand you’re working to protect at the moment] that have occurred. Not a single student has been arrested or expelled as a result of their participation. [But fifteen, and counting, have been summoned to Conduct Hearings, and threatened with mild to severe disciplinary action.]
Note the football game video below, in which the University worked diligently with students during a very tense demonstration scene [Administrators told the football team they would remain in the locker room for the National Anthem, for fear that Black protestors might become violent—whereas, in fact, what the protestors were hoping for was that some of the players would feel permission to take a knee during the National Anthem, a song that’s understand to be the emblem of colonial violence], a night in which the students were able [in spite of so many cops] to go on the field and make a statement. The same is true of the march to the President’s house on Sept. 20 [He hid inside until it was no longer feasible for him to continue hiding inside], in which the President and administrators spoke to students for more than an hour and a half [yet seemed not to have gained enlightenment in the process].
To whom it may concern,
We, the black students from the football field jail would like to set the record straight on where Eastern Michigan University stands in regards to protest. This letter serves as a reflection on the events of Friday September 23, 2016 at the EMU football game. All that transpired before, during, and after through the eyes of black students.
On Tuesday of last week our campus was attacked, but more than that a specific skin color was called to be out of place. What you must understand is that this is nothing new for us, but came as a shock on such a “diverse” campus. This calls into question what the administration is doing, not only to offer comprehensive programs, classes, and spaces challenging racism, but what it is doing to ensure its students do not hold such biases comfortably.
Every other day it seems there is a new black body formed into a hashtag, and every week it seems there is a video to accompany the murder. All this is coupled with a lifetime of injustice, untreated trauma, and buried history.
When those words were painted on the wall, it was less about the wall or the words, but mostly the comfort it took to create such art on a public space. It was not some shocking egregious act, rather a reminder of what we have always known, what we have always experienced. We learned then that EMU was not so different from the United States
The university got wind of a potential protest, and rather than standing in solidarity with its students or providing space for them to speak out, they passed out flyers at the entrance to reminded us just how far we could go without arrest, and or dismissal from the university. Instead of meeting protesters (read: students) with listening ears and an open mind, EMU called in every police officer it could to squash any disruption that might interfere with a football team. Rather than announcing the injustice or providing a space for the people in the stands to hear us out, our diverse university kept the band as well as both football teams in the locker room during the national anthem to “protect” them from a threat of disruption. Hasn’t this always been the narrative though?
It is not clear what was intended before arriving at the football game, but after being screened with various forms of ID, after being watched for 120 minutes by armed police officers, after being separated and silenced from protesting a national anthem that is now popularly being peacefully used to protest injustice, the university chose to treat a protest as a bomb threat. President Smith gave direct orders for people, students, grieving students to be arrested if they moved any further in grass, which was not prohibited in any outline of the restrictions. President Smith, in an interview, stated how the university supports our efforts, but he along with most of his administrative staff have yet to even publicly affirm that #BlackLivesMatter. Not to mention how he personally gave the order of arrest if students made a move he did not approve of. Meanwhile we navigate a campus suspicious, and afraid that whoever painted that wall is sitting next to us, or much worse, running our university.
We contend that Black Lives Matter.
We assert our rights to peacefully speak out against injustice.
We proclaim that the protests will continue, indefinitely.
A Black Student.
It seems they only want protests of those they approve of. Meaning, the one’s they pay for, or it fits in to their own narrative. All over the country, these university protests are staged and paid for.
Nobody was arrested at this football game. Nobody has been arrested during any of the protests this fall, including when students blocked traffic on Washtenaw during rush hour, and the administration and faculty have continued to work with student leaders on these issues. This website lists a variety of those efforts. http://www.emich.edu/community_notice/
Geoff Larcom – Can you explain what the disciplinary actions will be for the students you guys spent so much time working to identify? You said quote: “It’s also important to note that no sanctions that have been issued that include expulsion, nor has any action been taken that would delay or deny students’ progress toward their degrees.” Can you please be more specific about what exactly you have planned for these students?
EMU put a lot of time into working to identify who these students are for the sole purpose of disciplining them. We have to wonder why this was so important, especially in the wake of never identifying who made any of the original racist graffiti to begin with.
This is very concerning. What actions will be taken against the students?
I would like to share portions of a letter sent from Washtenaw NOW to EMU’s President Smith about this issue last week:
“Today I am writing on behalf of the entire Washtenaw NOW Board in support of the demands of your African American students for better learning, working and living conditions. Although two recent episodes of racist graffiti on campus buildings have triggered a lot of angst, the concerns of Eastern Michigan University’s African American students that their learning experiences here are not optimal did not begin this semester.”
“We understand that you were recently presented with a list of 10 demands that was first presented by your African American students in November of 2015 at the EMU Conference on Institutional Racism in Higher Education, see link: http://www.easternecho.com/article/2015/11/black-student-demands. Washtenaw NOW supports the students’ ongoing peaceful efforts to achieve redress of injustices, and encourages you and your staff to work closely with them to address their serious grievances with meaningful responses.”
“In addition, we would like to go on record as objecting to expulsion or to any serious penalty/sanction that would impair the efforts of peaceful protestors of racial injustice to achieve their educational goals at EMU. Some of us on the Board remember vividly the anti-war sit-ins of our own college years. As long as the sit-ins at EMU are peaceful and respectful of the work and workers who occupy the campus buildings during business hours, we see no need to enforce standard hours of building operation in heavy-handed ways during this uniquely unjust and stressful time.”
We are on stand-by to assist the students in their peaceful pursuit of redress.
Cheryl Farmer MD, President