Academia may have found yet another source of microaggression: wood paneling.
According to one activist close to the University of Michigan, the walls of the historic Michigan Union building are “marginalizing” minority students, The College Fix reports. The glossy brown mahogany wood can be found all over the interior of the storied campus structure and is similar to patterns found in thousands of other buildings across America.
Anna Wibbelman — who used to head an organization concerned about enhancing college life, called Building a Better Michigan — announced at a recent student government meeting that “minority students felt marginalized by quiet, imposing masculine paneling” that covers the walls in the century-old building. It’s all there in the minutes from he meeting.
The union building is described by the university as “one of the University of Michigan’s most recognizable landmarks,” is slated for $85.2 million in renovations and the architects are seeking the opinion of students before commencing work.
The building is the site of many student organizations and Wibbelman offered her assessment as the student government considered its response.
Just how did they react to Wibbelman’s puzzling pronouncements about the paneling? Rick Fitzgerald, a campus spokesman, replied to a query from The College Fix that “concern about the paneling is not something that has been brought forward to the university as a concern from students, who have been involved with developing this project for several years and through dozens of meetings. Students certainly have expressed a desire that the renovation assures a welcoming, inviting, and student-oriented building. It is their building.”
Fitzgerald suggested that despite isolated concerns that walls, removing the wood might entail too much questionable time and energy. ” is a significant presence of wood paneling on the interior of the building and we expect most, if not all of it, will remain after the renovation.”
The current president of Building a Better Michigan, Jazz Teste, suggested that Wibbelman might not have been talking about the wood paneling — even thought she specifically mentioned it by name.
“I believe it was an off-hand comment about how many students felt marginalized by the quiet nature of the building when they entered,” she informed The College Fix.