To: Dr. Mary Sue Coleman, President

University of Michigan: Support Your Black Students

The University of Michigan's lack of sustained commitment to diversity has fueled student protest. We support the students of UM and urge you to take all of the appropriate means to address the claims of Michigan's undergraduate black student population. #moveblueforward

Why is this important?

My name is Lester Spence. I am an Associate Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in 1991, and my PhD from the University of Michigan in 2001.

I worked hard for both of those degrees. But contrary to stories of “individual initiative,” I know my degrees didn’t come from my hard work alone. Student protest created the Comprehensive Studies Program that accepted me in 1987. Student protest created the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies where I took many of my classes, where I wrote the undergraduate paper in 1989 that led to my first book 22 years later. Student protest led to the hires of every single letter writer I had for grad school. Black students (and their allies) risked their academic careers. Risked their academic careers so years later people like me could find themselves and their purpose. Risked their careers to force the university to live up to its highest principles and values.

When I saw that black students at Michigan were forced to protest again, forced to issue demands protestors issued almost thirty years ago, I couldn’t stand by silently. We know what they’re risking. We know what they’re fighting for.

Our petition accomplishes two goals: First, the petition tells students they aren’t alone. They have received hate mail and threats. This in addition to the stress they’re already undergoing as students. Second, the university recently named Dr. Mark Schlissel (current Brown University provost) its next President. This petition tells incoming President Schlissel and other university officials that the issue of racial and economic equity are critical concerns they should not ignore.

The University of Michigan, like all prestigious institutions, is sensitive to public pressure. Adding your name will turn up the heat on university leadership and further enable students organizing for a Michigan that truly represents the leaders and best.

Tell the University of Michigan that it’s time they stand up and support student demands for more racial diversity and more economic support for poorer students.