The University Record, September 7, 1999

Bram Elias: Just one request

Bram Elias told the Class of 2003 and other new students last week that he could offer advice to ensure their success at Michigan, “but that’s best defined individually. It’s best if you create your own goals and pursue them.”

He did, however, offer a few suggestions from the student perspective to make the U-M feel a bit more like home, which he promised it will, eventually.

  • Join one of the 841 recognized student groups, most of which offer opportunities for a “robust exchange of ideas.”

  • Take part in intramural athletics, “‘intra’ coming from ‘couldn’t,’ ‘mural’ from ‘varsity.’”

  • “Don’t step on the ‘M.’ It bites.”

  • Stay up late and argue with hallmates. “Now’s the time to get passionate about discourse. . . . but I encourage you to please stop arguing about pop or soda right now.”

  • Develop a healthy academic skepticism.

  • Take part in events at Hillel, the largest organization of its type in the world. “If you’re Jewish, your mother will love you. If you’re not, my mother will love you.”

  • “Invest yourself. Register to vote.”

  • If you don’t have any classes there, visit North Campus and “hug an engineer.”

  • Read the Michigan Daily, “which this year celebrates 108 years of editorial freedom. 109 years ago the editors were kept in locked steel cages.”

    While he told his soon-to-be colleagues they could take or leave his advice, he did have a request:

    “Please go out of your way to make a friend of another race. There’s no shame in admitting this isn’t easy and it might take effort. But if you fail to make interracial relationships here, in a community that is ethnically multicultural and celebrates diversity, you might find it impossible to do so on graduating and returning to a world that is statistically more segregated and less accepting.

    “There are agonizingly few institutions in this country that give their members opportunities to create intellectual relationships across boundaries. Michigan is the greatest one in the country precisely because it’s right at the heart of it and comes closest to succeeding in creating a tolerant, equitable, considerate society. Don’t blow it.”