Last week the University of Michigan held “diversity” forums sponsored by the Residential College (RC), but some were irked that the events were separated by race — one was for people of color, the other “open to all.”
Because it was geared “to create an open dialogue geared specifically to all people of color involved in the program,” a reporter from The Michigan Daily was asked to leave the forum for non-white students.
The reporter was permitted to attend the other event.
Senior Admissions and Recruitment Coordinator Logan Corey defended the racial separation, saying it was “to ensure that students and faculty of color felt safe raising concerns and sitting in solidarity with other people of color, given the current climate on campus.”
Director of Residential College Jonathan Wells added that the separate events were appropriate because it gave “people of color a space to talk without feeling ‘watched.’”
LSA and RC junior Darian Razdar, who attended both town halls and was one of many students to participate in the forum, said he recognized the potential for white students to feel discluded from the forum for people of color only, but added both forums were productive, emphasizing that this opportunity for students of color is rare in a mostly-white culture like at the University.
“I think for white students who feel somehow (upset) by us having a first town hall for students and staff of color, I’d say look at yourself, think about your place and your people’s histories,” Razdar said. “You can seek out white spaces, and those can be productive, as long as you think about how you can leverage your privilege that you’ve been raised with.”
During the townhalls, Razdar noted how he felt he had a different college experience due to his parents being immigrants and his background.
“A lot of these students don’t understand that there are core differences between us,” Razdar said.
Though many voiced anger at the RC for its lack of diversity and inclusion during student speak-outs, Razdar said he disagreed and called the event indicative of RC efforts to improve inclusion. Instead, he said it was more of a call to action for the University’s overarching DEI plan.
Razdar also defended the ouster of the Michigan Daily reporter saying “they [sic] did not identify as a person of color. If the Daily had sent one they [sic] would have been welcome to join.”
One of the complaints at the people of color-only forum was that the school’s goal of “creating a comfortable community within the larger University” is contradicted by things like an “overemphasis on learning colonized languages” — Spanish, French, and German. They want “culturally relevant” languages … like Swahili.