On Sunday morning, Feb. 6, the Students of Color Coalition (SCC) gained access to the tower space in the Michigan Union and said that they intended to stay there until the University addresses their concerns. Members of SCC had presented on Friday afternoon, Feb. 4, a petition to University administrators outlining a wide range of concerns from increased space and funding for minority programs to dropping the term African American from all University communications.
Among the groups concerns is the exclusive use of the Michigan Union space by three campus organizations. The three include Michigamua Senior Society, Phoenix and Vulcan. The students occupying Michigamuas office space want the University to: remove the three organizations from the Union space and make the space available for use by all students as a cultural study lounge; sever all affiliation with and subsidy of Michigamua; eliminate all references to Native American culture, including the name Michigamua, from club use; and return to the Native American community a number of artifacts found in storage in the clubs facilities.
On Sunday evening, Feb. 6, the University proposed to the current members of Michigamua, Phoenix and Vulcan, and they agreed, that the tower office space be off limits to everyone until further discussion. In essence and for the first time, the current members of the three organizations voluntarily agreed to remove themselves from the space to help create an opportunity for dialogue. It is my hope that the SCC will see this action on the part of the current members of Michigamua, Phoenix and Vulcan as an acknowledgement that meaningful discussion can take place free of the past.
The Michigan Student Assembly (MSA) recognizes student organizations, subject to the Constitution and the general principle of academic freedom. Michigamuas affiliation with the University of Michigan as a student organization derives from this recognition. The decision whether or not to sever the student organization affiliation is a discussion that should appropriately take place within MSA. Neither MSA nor the University provides any additional subsidy of Michigamua, Phoenix and Vulcan beyond the use of the Michigan Union space. MSA does not provide office space for Michigamua, Phoenix or the Vulcan organizations.
Current members of Michigamua believe they have apologized for the past practices of the group and have disassociated themselves from any continuing club practices and references that are offensive to and derogatory of the Native American community. Club members indicated they were not aware that the artifacts found by the SCC in their attic had been stored there. They have surrendered all claims to the Native American artifacts found in their meeting space. The process of identifying and cataloguing authentic artifacts, so they can be returned to the Native American community, began on Wednesday, Feb. 9.
It is tempting to take sides, and to label the individuals or groups involved in this process as good or bad. I urge us to resist that temptation. We need to engage in a dialogue that has the power to help all of us come to a better understanding of the issues at hand, and to revitalize our campus community. It is my belief that all parties involved in this situation have made significant movement toward a resolution. Although our community has heard the concerns being voiced and some significant changes have come about, we must all join together in doing the work that remains.