At the U of Michigan, Black Students Demand More Diversity

Students have launched a social media campaign, Being Black at the University of Michigan, to draw attention to problems of inclusion.

Posted: 01/27/2014 01:46 PM EST

The University of Michigan has been the scene of a series of demonstrations and demands by African-American students recently calling on the school to improve diversity and to promote inclusion.

Over the weekend, leaders from the school’s Black Student Union met with officials of the university to discuss a series of demands that have been made of the administration, ranging from more funding for a new multicultural center to providing affordable housing for economically challenged students. The students’ demands also include increasing Black enrollment at Michigan by 10 percent.

“Our list of demands came out of a tense racial climate that is being experienced not only at Michigan, but at college campuses around the United States,” said Tyrell Collier, the president of the Black Student Union, in an interview with BET.com.

“I think we’re in a period where universities are lacking in their ability to foster a sense of inclusion on campuses,” said Collier, a senior from Grand Rapids, Michigan, majoring in sociology and African-American studies. “I don’t think they are doing enough to promote interaction between people of different races and different cultural backgrounds.”

The Black students’ campaign at the University of Michigan is part of a growing number of protests and demonstrations at universities around the country where African-American students are calling for increased attention to racial diversity.

A similar initiative took place recently at the University of California at Los Angeles,
where students put together a video that went viral decrying the low number of African-American male students. Similar calls have been made by Black students at Arizona State University, where a white fraternity was expelled this month for holding a racist party on Martin Luther King’s birthday.

At Michigan, the Black students’ demands started with a social media campaign called Being Black at the University of Michigan, which attracted nationwide attention to the racial climate at that school as well as larger, predominately white universities. The students have launched a campaign with the #BBUM Twitter hashtag.

Collier said that the Black Student Union’s demands came after months of a number of racial incidents on the campus, including parties by white fraternities with themes that demeaned African-Americans.

“We also saw a news item from Bloomberg News that said that Black enrollment at the university fell 20 percent in a seven-year span,” Collier said. “That helped to start the BBUM movement.”

After the meeting between university officials and about 15 Black students, the school’s vice president for student life said that the talks had been “smartly serious.”  

The vice president, E. Royster Harper, added, “It was back and forth, both of us trying to understand the issues from each others’ point of view. I would describe it as a robust family conversation.”

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Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

(Photo: University of Michigan Black Student Union)

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