Michigan black student union: ‘physical action’ if seven demands not met in one week

Chuck Ross | Reporter

Members of the University of Michigan Black Student Union said they would have to resort to “physical action” if a list of seven demands issued on Martin Luther King Day are not met within seven days, The Ann Arbor News reported.

“If negotiations are not complete we will be forced to do more, beginning to increase valiantly our activism for social progress and take physical actions on the University of Michigan’s campus,” said senior Shayla Scales to a group of students gathered on campus, according to the Ann Arbor News.

The seven demands, read aloud by an activist associated with the union after a speech by entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte, included calls for more control over the Black Student Union’s budget, more housing for lower-income students, a new multicultural student center, the requirement of classes teaching all students about the historical treatment of minorities, access to emergency scholarships for minority students, increased exposure to library materials and a requirement that 10 percent of the campus be represented by black students.

Besides the speech by Belafonte, who has recently compared conservative business leaders to the Ku Klux Klan at a rally for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the social justice activist group By Any Means Necessary, which strongly advocates affirmative action policies, also rallied on campus, blocking traffic in the process.

Monday’s demands come two months after the Black Student Union began a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #BBUM. The hashtag, which stands for “Being Black at Michigan,” trended nationally and was a response to a campus fraternity’s plans to hold a “Hood Ratchet Thursday” party.

“The BBUM campaign, as difficult as it was to hear, has been incredibly insightful. We hear you, and we are making changes,” said University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman before Belafonte’s talk, The Ann Arbor News reported.

Coleman, along with school provost Martha Pollack, had issued a three-pronged approach to address diversity at the school. The school plans to implement diversity and tolerance programming beginning next year, according to another report from The Ann Arbor News. A student-faculty committee is also being set up to address campus diversity.

The school has been the center of many similar debates. The U.S. Supreme Court backed the University of Michigan law school’s affirmative action policies in a landmark 2003 case. But in 2006, Michigan voters overturned the law. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on that matter last October.

The percentage of black students at the school has declined since the 2006 vote. Black students made up 4.6 percent of the school’s student population in 2012, down from 6.8 percent in 2008, according to The Ann Arbor News.

Members of the student union who issued the seven demands for change would not specify what types of physical actions they planned to take, the Ann Arbor News reported.

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