This complaint arises from a historical and continuing and ongoing discrimination by the administration of The University of Michigan against Native Americans based on race, ethnicity and national origin.
Numerous students and student groups from The University of Michigan are included as complainants. To facilitate communication, the following two persons have agreed to be the main contact people:
-Karen E. Brewer
-Stephen L. Rassi
An appendix consisting of documentation for the references used in this complaint, is attached. In order to assist with the investigation of this complaint, we are prepared to provide additional documentation, including newspaper articles, statements from The University of Michigan administration and numerous student and faculty groups, letters, documents from Michigamua's space in the Michigan Union tower, audio tapes of meetings with the university administration, and a dozen videotapes which document the conditions in the Michigan Union tower at the time when the takeover began, and all of the meetings between the university administration and the SCC during the 37 days the tower was held.
There are references throughout this complaint to several different people and organizations. For reference purposes, these people and organizations are named and defined here.
Lee C. Bollinger ("Bollinger")--(734) 764-6270
Eunice Royster-Harper ("Royster-Harper")
Interim Vice President of Student Affairs
Frank Cianciola ("Cianciola")
Dean of Students
Maureen Hartford ("
Former Vice President of Student Affairs
A "secret society" housed
in the Tower of the Michigan Union ("the Tower"), on the campus of
Non-Native American members adopted and performed pseudo-Native American rituals (both publicly and privately); gave themselves pseudo-Native American names (including names like "First I Run, Then I Vomit"); appropriated, displayed, and played with spiritually and historically significant Native American artifacts and items of worship;
membership was closed to the student body at large, and members were "tapped" (selected for membership) by existing members who felt that the prospective members would most appropriately reflect their ideas of leadership within the University.
Native American Student Association ("NASA")
- was formed in 1972 by a group of concerned faculty, staff and students at the University of Michigan with the purpose of promoting the interests and awareness of Native Americans. Along with weekly meetings NASA sponsors annual events that are designed to increase cultural, political, and social awareness of Native peoples.
Student of Color Coalition ("SCC")
- is comprised of a group of students at the University of Michigan who have come together in solidarity to show support for one another in working toward a culturally diverse campus community. The primary goals of the SCC are to expose the university's support of and privileging relationship with "Michigamua", and to work toward changing university policy so that minority students are adequately represented and protected.
Joe Reilly ("Reilly")
- is a senior in the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources. He is also a member of the Students of Color Coalition and a member of the Native American Student Association.
Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality ("SOLE")
- is composed of men and women of numerous ethnicities and sexual orientations, both undergraduates and graduate students. The intention of SOLE is to advocate for social justice by winning it through direct action, education, and coordination with other student groups, activist organizations, and labor unions.
The Space Allocation Panel ("The Panel")
The Panel eventually created by the University of Michigan, purportedly to make an independent investigation and recommendations about how to most appropriately respond to allegations and proof of discrimination raised by SCC and NASA.
- The history of preferential treatment and
privileged support given by The
What Michigamua Purports to Be
Founded in 1902, Michigamua is a
senior recognition society consisting of up to 25 student leaders at the
We fully recognize that any present day use of anything at all related to Native American culture may be considered cultural ridicule and is therefore totally inappropriate. Because Michigamua in no way condones cultural misappropriation, we have in actuality stuck to our decade-long commitment to ensuring that nothing we do in any way is derivative of or even tangentially related to our former Native American-based symbolism. What we cannot change is our history. While we fully educate our new initiates about this past, included in that education is an acute awareness of how plainly improper some of our practices were from society's present-day multicultural perspective; in no way do we celebrate it.
Actual History and Current Practices of Michigamua,
and the History of Michigamua's Use of the
with the assistance of University President James B. Angell, a group of white
men at the
the historical precedent established by the Sons of Tammany (Liberty) during
America's revolutionary past, these heritage conscious male students chose an
appropriate Indian name, Michigamua, for their University sanctioned tribe and
club, because the word had an indigenous sound and look. It established a
triple association with
In the spirit of University patriotism and American Indian reincarnation, Michigamua began a legacy of adopting images, rituals, and artifacts of Native American people into the identity of their organization (Michigamua Collection, Bentley Historical Library).
Every member of the group was selectively inducted and given a Michigamua name, in mocking imitation of traditional Native American names, and took on an entirely new identity. These names reflect common negative stereotypes of Native American cultures and often include patriarchic references to women as "squaws," (a Native word used to describe female genetalia). This is demonstrated in many of the names from the founding group of 1902:
"'Pocohontas' Parish, 'Young Man of Many Squaw' Brown, 'Thirsty for Blood' Utley, 'Squaw Teaser' Schmid, 'Heap Good Face' White, 'Fire Water' Copley, and 'Man Afraid of the Squaw' Smith" (Michigamua Directory, Pg 74).
-Each year, 25 of
Through the adoption of a steretypical Indian culture, the Michigamua identity became surrounded by a mystique of fierce savagery:
"The allusion to American Indians and patriots
allows simultaneous historical resonance with the romantic affection for the
savage Indian and the mythic founding, conquest, and settlement of
By reincarnating Native people, perhaps as a result of ancestral guilt, Michigamua members were actually celebrating and glorifying the forced removal and genocide of the Indigenous peoples who preceeded them in Michigan:
"The Michigamua honor the conquest of Indian nations, the settlement of Indian land, and the courage and perseverance needed to accomplish such an arduous task... Young University men can take on the guise of Indian warriors because, they believe, real Indian warriors no longer exist. They have been killed in an act of war on fields of honor, vanquished by a technologically superior and pre-destined foe" (LeBeau, Pp. 2-3).
The behavior of Michigamua continued to be accepted
and rewarded by
On the morning of February 6, 2000 members of the SCC gained access to the Michigamua "wigwam" atop the Michigan Union tower and claimed the space in honor of their ancestors who had suffered from the oppressive forces of colonization. The SCC demanded that the University sever all ties with Michigamua and open the space in the Union tower to the public. The activists pledged to remain in the space until their demands were met. As administrators ignored the presence and the demands of the students, the SCC opened the space to the public and began conducting tours. Over the next few weeks administration continued to defray responsibility for the actions of Michigamua, and Michigamua defended itself from accusations of racism and elitism. Meanwhile thousands of students, professors, staff members, families, and community members toured the space and saw for themselves the physical history of the 98-year old University tradition.
Within the Michigamua "wigwam" SCC members found countless examples of continued cultural appropriation, the most obvious being the structure of the room itself, which included a birch-bark pattern painted around the perimeter and a plaque honoring "Great Scalper Yost" hanging on the wall. They also found a sacred, ritual pipe, feather headdresses, drum hides, a cradleboard, beadwork, and recent photographs of Michigamua members using these sacred objects. An anthropology professor who was called in to catalogue the items, some of which were authentic artifacts, and some imitation, dated the cradleboard and beadwork from the late 1800's. Clearly Michigamua had violated the 1989 agreement and continued its traditions of utilizing Native American culture behind closed doors in the Michigan Union.
As illustrated by "An Evolving Chronology of the History of the Michigan Union, its Relationship to Michigamua and Current Activities," 3/00 (1), "A Brief History of Michigamua," 3/21/00 (2), and "Actions to Notify the University of the Hostile Environment," 8/2/00 (3), The University of Michigan and Michigamua have had a long history of collaborative and symbiotic engagement. The preferential treatment and privileged support for this group by The University of Michigan has been documented since at least 1972, and continues as of the date of this complaint, unabated.
Specific examples of the privileges granted to Michigamua by The University of Michigan include, but are not limited to, free, exclusive, secret meeting space, which is not under the scrutiny of the usual and customary university departmental space regulations; status as a student group granted in the absence of the documentation normally required of any student group; access to, and special favors from, university faculty, administration, and staff; protection and exclusion from policies and regulations that apply to all other student groups.
Joe Reilly, in "An American Disease", Voices from the Tower, 2/22/00, says, "Our goal was very clear and simple: to liberate this space that for 70 years has been used exclusively by Michigamua - one of three Tower Societies - to appropriate Native American culture and disrespect Native American people. After three decades of attempted dialogue with Michigamua and with University administration, the Students of Color Coalition decided it was time to take action." (4)
From the "Statement
by the Student of Color Coalition", March 4, 2000 (5),
Significantly, an event
took place during the SCC occupation of the Tower that serves to graphically
demonstrate the different treatment accorded to the SCC and Native American
issues than that accorded to other, more privileged, students. When SCC seized
the Tower and made public the acts engaged in by Michigamua, President
Bollinger refused to meet immediately with SCC leaders. Instead, it was two
days before he agreed to meet with SCC to begin negotiations. And there was
never any meaningful proposal from Bollinger to resolve the occupation, so the
occupation was ended by the students, of their own accord, after they had
secured the safety of the Native artifacts which were discovered in the tower. However,
while the SCC's occupation of the Tower was continuing, another student group
-- SOLE -- staged its own takeover to protest a very different issue - to get
the university to sign on to a Worker's Rights Coalition agreement. SOLE seized
occupation of the
Letter from Joe Reilly to E. Royster Harper, with copies to President Bollinger and the Space Allocation Committee (4/11/00): "After reading your letter in today's Michigan Daily Editorial section advising students not to participate in the Naked Mile, I could not help but notice the obvious inconsistency you have expressed towards students in your role as an administrator. For the entire semester students have protested Michigamua and the secret societies due to the blatant forms of racism and elitism that are inherent in the traditions of their organizations. Incidents of alcohol consumption, hazing, and the sexualization of women have taken place by these organizations in their meeting space within the Michigan Union tower, as evident through photographs and meeting journals found within the space. Yet you have made no public denouncement of these activities in regards to the tower societies. In fact, you made a statement urging students 'not to take sides,' encouraging continued complacency towards institutionalized racism, sexism, and elitism."(7)
He continues, "It is interesting how your defense of Michigamua and the tower societies does not follow through with your stance on the Naked Mile. Is this not the 'free speech' right of every student to participate in such an event? You cite the Naked Mile as 'a notorious campus tradition' that has grown into something 'much more unpleasant and frightening,' yet have failed to provide the University community with ANY similar description of the traditions of Michigamua. Are not the traditions of intentionally exploiting indigenous cultures and women equally unpleasant to those of the Naked Mile?"(7)
As stated in a letter to the editor in The Michigan Daily, 7/10/00, the preferential treatment, in the form of silence from The University of Michigan regarding the discriminatory practices of Michigamua, still continues: "The University has never made a public statement indicating that Michigamua has caused 'unjust pain and humiliation.' Rather, President Bollinger and other University administrators have only made sterile allusions to First Amendment rights."(8) No one from the University administration - not Bollinger, nor anyone else - has even acknowledged that the Michigamua "traditions" and behaviors also are -- at the least -- " unpleasant and frightening." The University will publicly condemn the non-discriminatory behavior of students who recklessly celebrate their last year in college. But it remains conspicuously silent on the issue of students and prominent alumnae continuing a centuries old tradition of appropriating, mimicking, and disparaging Native custom and tradition.
Additional evidence of the history of preferential treatment for Michigamua, as provided by The University of Michigan, is referenced in the 7/31/00 statement from Joe Reilly: "[Michigamua's] longstanding history of prestige combined with practices and custom based on the ridicule and disrespectful appropriation of Native American culture and religion is a statement by the University that we are not equal members of the University community. The fact that the organization was founded by a University President and currently includes faculty and staff members such as hockey coach Red Berenson, Professor Sidney Fine, [and] Director of Michigan Union facilities Audrey Schwimmer adds to the fact [that] the University as a collective institution conspires in mocking and promoting negative stereotypes of Native people."(9)
To illustrate the issue of privilege from yet another viewpoint, questions may be asked as to whether the same behaviors as are exhibited by Michigamua would be allowed if they were directed at another minority group. "What if the plaque dedicated to the 'Great Scalper Yost' read: 'Great Wetback Yost', 'Great Opium Yost', 'Great Roaster of Jews Yost', 'Great Sambo Yost', or 'Great Sand Nigger Yost'? This is unbridled racism, unfettered and undeniable."(15) Yet Michigamua receives special treatment from the university, with its racist practices protected - so in this way Michigamua is treated as privileged above all other student groups.
Another example of the privileged treatment given Michigamua by the university administration is the tower space itself. While Michigamua occupied the tower there was no mention of any building code violations or fire hazard with regard to this space. Now that Michigamua is out, and SCC and other students have called for this space to be renovated for use as a multicultural lounge, open to all students - suddenly the administration "realizes" that the space is unusable.
The history of preferential treatment and privileged support given by The University of Michigan to Michigamua clearly continues until the present time.
In 1989, a determined and brave student raised the issue of privilege and racism in Michigamua's practices and use of the Tower. As a result of her complaints, Michigamua eventually signed a written agreement wherein it agreed to abandon all use of Native American artifacts and spiritual items, to cease and desist from using actual or pseudo-Native American rituals in its organization, and to keep only the name of Michigamua. A copy of the November 1, 1989 agreement cannot be attached, due to the fact that the agreement itself states that no copies are allowed. However, a quote from the agreement follows: "...Michigamua does hereby eliminate all references to Native American culture and pseudo-culture and extensions and parodies thereof, with the one exception being the name, Michigamua, for now and forever. The signatures of the President of Michigamua, and the President of the Alumni Council makes this agreement binding to all past, present, and future members of Michigamua."(1)
For more information on the November 1, 1989 agreement between Melissa (Lopez) Pope, The University of Michigan Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs, and Michigamua, refer to the handout from SCC(10) and the "Evolving Chronology..."(1) Facts from Michigan Bentley Historical Library sources are quoted in The Michigan Daily, 2/22/00, regarding the 1989 agreement, Michigamua's non-compliance, and the university's awareness of that non-compliance and role in resolving the problem over the years.(28)
-Michigamua lived up to its contractual agreement and obligations in the same way that the United States government and European Americans historically have lived up to their treaties and contracts with Native American peoples on this continent - they didn't. Michgamua continued doing what it wanted to do and completely ignored the terms of their contractual agreement!! The only thing Michigamua did differently after this agreement was that they made sure that they kept their refusal to abide by the agreement a secret. And the University made it easy for Michigamua to do this, because the University had given them private space in the Tower, free from the prying eyes of the public. Michigamua no longer initiated their "Indian braves" in public displays on campus, true. But Michigamua members continued to do it in the private confines of the "wigwam" they built in their space (a wigwam built after Michigamua had promised not to do things like build and use wigwams).
According to the 3/4/00 statement by SCC (and numerous other documents), at the 3/3/00 meeting between SCC and the university president, Bollinger "stated that he had no intention of honoring the written agreement [the 1989 agreement] between the University of Michigan, Michigamua, Michigamua Alumni Council, and university student representatives that Michigamua was to cease the misappropriation of Native American culture with the exception of the name."(5)
Further evidence of the non-enforcement of the 1989 agreement is evidenced by the objects and documents discovered in the Michigamua "Wigwam" when it was occupied by SCC on February 6, 2000, as documented in numerous places, including Thom Saffold's letter of 4/8/00(11), which states: "I took the tour and saw the document. The meeting room's faux wigwam decor, the items displayed, notations in official minutes and documents, the "Indian-sounding" nicknames in its membership lists, and its scrap books convinced me that Michigamua violated that agreement [the 1989 agreement]. I witnessed nothing in the room that "honored" Native Americans."
Continuing evidence is given by Joe Reilly, in his letter of 3/30/00: "...Michigamua is in violation of the terms of its 1989 agreement with the University, by (mis)using artifacts, using stereotypes and caricatures of Native languages, culture, and rituals in official society business. Contrary to statements made by the University's administration, current members of Michigamua have NOT 'disassociated themselves from any continuing club practices and reference that are offensive to and derogatory of the Native American community.' The nicknames, figurines, inscriptions, and other cultural symbols and references that were found in the current space are offensive and disrespectful. Given the location of many of these pieces, it is obvious that the current members of Michigamua were aware of the ongoing violations of their agreement with the University."(12)
In a letter to The University of Michigan administration, dated 3/9/00, The Representatives of Rackham Student Government mention the "agreement which Michigamua has apparently violated by continuing to engage in such behavior as previously deemed to be inappropriate under this original agreement."(13)
Furthermore, in a letter that Michigamua called its "final offer" to the Native community, dated 3/25/00, there is an offer to change the group's name, without removing the offensive "Michigamua" title, and the letter is printed on Michigamua's letterhead, which includes both the title "Michigamua" as a part of the group name, as well as the culturally offensive and discriminatory fake "Indian" nicknames of the group members.(14)
Clearly The University of Michigan was aware that these violations of the 1989 agreement were ongoing and current, as stated in the 2/11/00 issue of Voices from the Tower: "Michigamua's journal entries indicate that interim Vice President of Student Affairs Eunice-Royster Harper, Dean of Students Frank Cianciola, along with a host of University administrators and officials have been aware of Michigamua's transgressions, and in some cases are directly affiliated with them. For example, Cianciola has served as organizational advisor for the organization for at least the last two years."(15)
******** ********** ************** ********* *********** ******* ********* *********** *********** ********** ********* ************ ************* *********** ************* *********** ******** in her letter copied to President Bollinger on 2/15/00.(17) Although removing Michigamua from the campus would violate their first amendment rights, this statement certainly illustrates the point that The University of Michigan does indeed have the power and authority to disavow the actions of this discriminatory group as reprehensible, and incompatible with the views of the university - a statement which the university has obstinately avoided at all costs.
In addition, when called upon by the takeover of the Michigan Union tower to investigate and correct the unique and privileged status of Michigamua and the other Tower Societies, which operated outside of the bounds of ordinary student groups, President Bollinger could have chosen to bring these groups into compliance with well established guidelines by which the other groups were already bound. He chose instead to investigate the guidelines for all groups, implying that there was something wrong with the guidelines. In fact, the real problem originated with the groups who violated the existing guidelines, and the university which remained silent to those violations, in complete complicity with the errant groups.
A. - The University of Michigan's complicity with Michigamua, by knowingly having Michigamua members at all levels, and woven entirely throughout The University of Michigan's corporate structure:
"[Michigamua] was founded by a University President and currently includes faculty and staff members such as hockey coach Red Berenson, Professor Sidney Fine, Director of Michigan Union facilities Audrey Schwimmer..."(9)
In 1988, when the investigations leading to the 1989 agreement were underway, both the Director of Athletics, Don Canham, and Don Lund, the Associate Director, were Michigamua members.(18)
Members of Michigamua are selected in such a way as to come from the elite at the school, and the alumnae include people as influential as former President Gerald Ford (Gerald "Flip 'um Back Ford is his Michigamua pseudo-Indian name).(19)
Other recent University of Michigan employees who are Michigamua alumni include, football coach Bo "Big Ten Wrecker" Schembechler (1983) and men's tennis coach Brian "None Coach'Um Wiser Eisner (1988).(52) Others listed in the 1997 membership directory of Michigamua(C) include Kirk F. Trost, Assistant Wrestling Coach; Joe P. McFarland, Assistant Wrestling Coach; Richard Kimball, Diving Coach; Charles A. Judge, Athletic Director; Matthew H. Hyde, Assistant Baseball Coach; Dan E. Goldberg, Assistant Tennis Coach; Brian W. Eisner, Tennis Coach and Frank W. Potter of the University of Michigan Law School.
Javier Boyas, in his statement of July 31, 2000: "Imagine walking around campus knowing that this institution has named their buildings after individuals that... have a history of employing degrading practices without regard for those who hold some of those practices as sacred."(20)
U of M buildings named for Michigamua alumni and honorary members: (21)--------
Yost Ice Arena
Hatcher Graduate Library
Ruthven Exhibit Museums
Matthei Botanical Gardens
Shapiro Undergraduate Library
Residence Halls Bates and Bursley
By encouraging and promoting a corporate structure which allows for the unseen influence of privileged groups throughout the university system, The University of Michigan has provided aid and assistance to Michigamua during the occupation of the tower, and during the subsequent investigation.
B. - The University of Michigan's failure to provide channels for redress of grievances regarding Michigamua, by knowingly creating a situation and structure whereby grievances and complaints go through administrators who have an intimate relationship and supportive stance toward Michigamua:
Those in power with regard to student concerns about Michigamua - those whom we would need to contact with our concerns regarding the discriminatory and racist practices of this group, as well as concerns about the administrations ties to Michigamua and continuing support and aid from the administration to Michigamua - are people with intimate connections and ties to Michigamua. There can be no honest or open communication with The University of Michigan administration regarding our concerns, as long as the very people with whom we must speak are advising Michigamua on methods for deflecting those concerns, without making any changes in the racist behaviors in which they are engaged.
first Space Allocation Panel hearing, on 3/28/00, Farah Mongeau stated: "Administration
ties to Michigamua have really compromised the students-of-color interests on
campus, particularly if Frank Cianciola is Michigamua's personal contact in the
administration, but his position has been put in charge of Multi-Ethnic Student
Affairs, MESA, which is one source of the support here for students of color."(A,
p.33) In other words, there is a conflict of interest - if the Michigamua
liaison is also in charge of
Farah continues to say, "When SCC attempted to move native artifacts to a safe space, Frank showed up late at night to back Michigamua and, despite the agreements and assurances that our group could return the actual belongings to the native community's control, Michigamua's ability to summon DPS and Frank Cianciola as though we were criminals is only one example of the level of enmeshment between the university and Michigamua."(A, pp. 33-34)
Another statement, from the 2/11/00 issue of Voices from the Tower: "Rather than admit that her employee Frank Cianciola has served as a liaison between Michigamua and administration for ten to twelve years, Royster attempted to pit students against each other, thus making a desperate leap to escape administrative blame."(15)
When Karen Brewer, a Native American staff member of The University of Michigan Health Services, resigned due to the administrations inadequate handling of Michigamua and the discrimination and racism espoused by this group, the Interim Director of Health Services, Robert Winfield, faxed her letter of resignation, along with further explanation of her reasons for resigning, to Frank Cianciola. How could it be that Mr. Cianciola would be able to effectively address the concerns of Native American staff, and those of an organization like Michigamua, at the same time?(24)
E. Royster Harper, the Interim Vice-President of Student Affairs, in particular has remained closely connected to Michigamua, and provided them with support and aid at each step. Meeting notes found in the tower described her invitation to Michigamua to meet at her home - a practice she does not follow with other student groups. When asked by members of SCC whether or not she had ever met with Michigamua, Ms. Harper said that she had not done so. When presented with the evidence, she changed her response to yes, but only at her home. This occurred at one of many such meetings in the tower, which are documented on videotape.
as reported by Jim Holm to the second Space Allocation Panel on 4/9/00: "On
Wednesday, March 29th, I took a prospective student at the
On May 4, 2000, Claire Seryak met with Royster Harper at Ms. Harper's office. During the discussion, Claire asked Ms. Harper about this meeting with Michigamua, to help them plan strategy. Ms. Harper's response was that they were MSA members, and that they were meeting to discuss MSA business.(22) Mr. Holm maintains that they were strategizing specifically about Michigamua and its response to the charges leveled at the Panel hearing.
Joe Reilly asks, in his letter of 4/11/00 to E. Royster Harper: "Are not the traditions of intentionally exploiting indigenous cultures and women equally unpleasant to those of the Naked Mile? Perhaps your allegiance with the secret societies prevents you from coming forward to make such a remark. Surely it would jeopardize future lunches and meetings at your home with members of these elite clubs. In fact, you are pictured in today's Michigan Daily with members of Michigamua participating in a "ceremony" described as an age old tradition at the University (Planting trees for future initiations of Michigamua members). Do you endorse the cultural perversions of Michigamua, or are you only an honorary member?... I will not accept these actions from an administrator that is supposed to behave in a way that is honorable and admirable for all students."(7)
Stephen Rassi, speaking at The University of Michigan Regents' meeting of 4/13/00, said: "... there should be no ties between members of the U of M administration and Michigamua. If we want to complain about this organization, we must go to E. Royster Harper or Frank Cianciola, both of whom have relationships with Michigamua that preclude the possibility of fairness to all students. If they cannot sever these relationships, then the administrators should resign from their positions."(23)
There is no avenue open to students, faculty and staff for redress of the grievances they suffer at the hands of Michigamua and The University of Michigan with regard to treatment of Native American people. There is not even anyone available to listen honestly to what university community members have to say. Yet the Michigamua members have the ear of the administration, and they and their discriminatory behaviors are actively protected by The University of Michigan administration. Thus The University of Michigan has provided aid and assistance to Michigamua during the occupation and subsequent investigation.
A vast majority of the speakers at both of the Space Allocation Panel hearings spoke against Michigamua (over 90% of the statements presented at each hearing), and many, if not most of these statements, named racism and discrimination as the problem that needs to be addressed, stating that the concern of space allocation, while it might be a side effect of racism, is not the correct focus of concern.(A, B)
How can it be that so many people, from all across the nation, are able to recognize that racism, and not space allocation, is the problem, and yet NOT ONE administrator at The University of Michigan is able to recognize this? Several examples follow:
SCC handout: "The Bollinger administration refuses to acknowledge what so many Ann Arborites witnessed, namely that Michigamua violated their solemn agreement, and have lied and practiced deceit to protect their privileged position. Making matters worse, Bollinger has also acted deceitfully, and is trying to frame the issue as one about 'use of space' and freedom of speech, rather than racism and arrogance. Adding insult to injury, Bollinger, who fancies himself a champion of civil rights, has exhibited woeful ignorance and callousness concerning the essential civil rights nature of SCC's actions and methods."(10)
Program in American Culture resolution presented to President Bollinger 2/22/00: "Given our concern for the current campus crisis centered on Michigamua... The credibility of the University as a leader campaigning for diversity, openness, and inclusion has been put in doubt by its historic support for Michigamua. We insist that the University end all moral support and financial subsidy for a secret society organized around the denigration of Native Americans. To fail to act decisively now undermines all efforts to make the University's teaching and research activities a model for educational institutions around the nation."(25)
Joe Reilly's 7/31/00 statement: "I attended the Board of Regents meeting and spoke personally to Frank Cianciola asking for a denouncement of the racism and received not even an apology."(9)
Newspaper ads placed by Michigamua and SCC demonstrate the absurdity of labeling the actions of Michigamua as anything other than racism; the Michigamua advertisement begins with the statement, "Michigamua is not racist and does not condone cultural ridicule."(26) The SCC parody begins, "The Ku Klux Klan is not racist and does not condone cultural ridicule."(27) Upon reading the two advertisements and comparing them, even administrators at The University of Michigan should see the obvious fact - that racism by any other name is still racism. Had the Ku Klux Klan been the actual campus group and advertiser, it is a foregone conclusion that the university would have spoken - but because of the discriminatory practices of the administration in supporting Michigamua, they totally fail to name the racism.
In fact, general knowledge of the purported ignorance of the university administration regarding the racism is so widespread that cartoons depict Michigamua members protesting their innocence. One example is from the Michigan Daily, 2/22/00.(28)
Jeffrey Kosseff's Michigan
Daily editorial of 2/21/00 states: "Back East, we always knew a town had
dire racial problems if the Rev. Al Sharpton paid a visit. His 600-mile trek to
The CIC (Committee on Institutional Cooperation) Native American Studies Consortium, which represents the faculty and graduate students at the universities of Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio, resolved not to meet at the University of Michigan until the problem of racism is resolved adequately.(32)
The university administration allowed Karen Brewer to resign from her position at Health Services due to the racism, without addressing the problem and without recognizing or naming their own racist actions, which contributed to her resignation.(24)
Cameron Shultz's letter to President Bollinger, which was sent three times, the first time on 3/15/00, asking the president to name the racism, finally received a reply from the president's Office Manager on 7/7/00. The entire reply said: "This is to acknowledge that President Bollinger is in receipt of your e-mails. Thank you for your observations and perspectives."(33) There was no mention of racism, or even any response whatsoever to any question or statement in the entire letter.
On April 3, 2000, the elected representatives of the Rackham Student Government, representing 7,700+ graduate students at The University of Michigan, called on the administration to enforce the 1989 agreement, recognizing the behavior of Michigamua as demeaning and degrading to Native Americans.(34)
Letters and statements from students at Michigan State University (30), as well as from educators, students and student groups from across the country (31), are also supportive evidence indicating that The University of Michigan administration can be expected to realize that the problem is racism, to name it as racism, and to express sorrow or disapproval that it is taking place.
A good analysis of the current environment, in which the university administration refuse entirely to name the racism, is as stated by Thom Saffold in his 4/8/00 letter to the Space Allocation Panel: "Racist systems deny the right to define reality except to those in power. In the case of Michigamua, Native students and students of color say, 'Michigamua's misuse of our cultural traditions is deeply offensive to us - they are racist.' Michigamua and its defenders reply, in effect, 'No, nothing we have done is racist. We are honoring you.' President Bollinger invalidates the students' objections completely by framing the issue as one of free speech and 'office space allocation.' In this way, the system of racism discounts, marginalizes, or ignores the thoughts, feelings, interpretation and reality of Native Americans and other objects of racism. It de-humanizes them."(37)
In this case, President Bollinger holds the power - he is naming the racism as space allocation - thus he is, intentionally or not, de-humanizing the Native American university community at The University of Michigan.
While most racism and discrimination, similarly to most sexual harassment, is enmity based, there are other types of behaviors and actions, not emanating from hatred, which are equally objectionable under civil rights laws. In the area of sexual harassment, such behaviors would be exemplified by the perpetrator who constantly asks a work colleague or subordinate out on dates, tries to hug them or hold their hand, and won't take "no" for an answer - not out of a hatred or discriminatory animus, but because he/she "loves" the other person. The idea is that the aggressor feels that his/her advances must be welcome or acceptable because he/she likes or admires the other person so much - but the other person does not want to go on a date with the aggressor, and does not agree to participate. This form of "true love" harassment is recognized by the law as actionable discriminatory sexual harassment.
The racism and discrimination practiced toward Native Americans by Michigamua shares characteristics with the above described harassment, in that Michigamua members invariably state that they did all these things because they "admire" and "respect" Indians. They have sought University permission and acceptance of what they do, because they believe that they are "honoring" Native peoples by imitating their culture and religion, and that therefore this could not possibly be demeaning or degrading for Native Americans.
Evidence for this exists in several communications: Joe Reilly's letter to Catherine Davis, of the University of Michigan - Flint, states: "Michigamua has stated that they need to hear from tribal representatives from around the state in order to legitimize our claims that their name, actions, and organization is offensive and helps promote negative stereotypes of Native people. I guess our words as Native students, faculty, and staff as well as that of local community members is not valid to Michigamua."(35) This simply exemplifies the behavior described above - Michigamua members are so sure that if they feel that their behavior is honoring of Native people, then everyone else must also think it is honoring, regardless of what the recipient of the behavior is telling them.
Reilly's letter to the Space Allocation Panel of 2/17/00 states: "Native
Americans have a long history of accommodating 'unintended' offenses. Currently,
the Washington Redskins, the Atlanta Braves, and
in Thom Saffold's letter to the Space Allocation Panel of 4/8/00, he states: "I
witnessed nothing in the [tower] room that 'honored' Native Americans...
Defenders of Michigamua maintain that its practices and rituals only 'respect'
and 'honor' Native American culture and traditions. In his letter to the editor
of March 3,
It is important that this particular type of racism and oppression be recognized, and named, by the administration of The University of Michigan. Until the university administration names it, the members of Michigamua most certainly will not do so.
The following are examples of how The University of Michigan, due to its past and current discrimination against Native Americans as elaborated above, is not providing equal access to learning for Native American students:
In ***** *****'s statement of 7/31/00, she states that due to the administration's support of Michigamua, "Native American students on University of Michigan campus are exposed to racial stressors. I have seen this affect other students of color and white students who are concerned about racism. While Michigamua is free to conduct business as it pleases, the endorsement of the organization by a public university is problematic."
She continues to state that, "Specifically, I would like to state my complaint that the University of Michigan is responsible for creating a hostile and disruptive atmosphere on campus by supporting an organization that perpetuates Native American racism. During the Winter semester of 2000, three of the classes I teach were disrupted because of student distress over the university's support for Michigamua. On January 24, 2000, seven of 30 students were absent as they went to protest against the university for fostering the existence of the Michigamua group. On February 7, 2000 and February 14, 2000, I could not continue my class on ***************, because the students were too focused on their concerns about the university's support of the activities of Michigamua."(38)
The 2/22/00 letter to President Bollinger from the Program in American Culture states: "To fail to act decisively now [to end support of Michigamua] undermines all efforts to make the University's teaching and research activities a model for educational institutions around the nation."(25)
Marie Reed's letter of 2/16/00 to the Space Allocation Panel states: "[Michigamua]
towers over me as I walk past the Michigan Union while contemplating if I
should apply to the
Finally, in the letter from students, faculty and staff from the University of Michigan School of Social Work, dated 4/17/00: "The University's continued support of Michigamua and the other secret societies has made our campus into a hostile environment, where many students, faculty, and staff do not feel safe or welcomed. The lack of decisive action on the part of the University and its administration to stop the group's racist practices, has negatively affected, and is continuing to have a chilling effect on minority enrollment... Some things are non-negotiable. Among them is the right for people to have dignity and to feel safe on the campus of our *public* University... We expect that the University of Michigan administration will recognize its legal duty, moral responsibility, and ethical obligation to sever all ties to, affiliation with, and subsidy of Michigamua..."(40)
The educational climate is also damaged, although equally for all students, by the time faculty must take away from meeting and planning time when they are confronted with institutionalized racism such as that of The University of Michigan giving aid and assistance to Michigamua. In this case there have been countless faculty discussions, during monthly faculty meetings, in smaller groups, and over e-mail, regarding how each school and department should handle the situation, what response should be given to concerned students, and other issues related to and consequent to an environment of racism and discrimination. The sheer number of letters sent to President Bollinger, the Regents of the University, and the Space Allocation Panel by faculty groups, exemplifies the burden that these discussions have placed on faculty as they attempt to provide quality instruction for their students.
Clearly this evidence shows that The University of Michigan is not providing an equal learning environment for all of its students - its support and encouragement of Michigamua stands in the way of equality on campus.
Letter to the Regents of The University of Michigan from Andrew Adams III, sent on 2/14/00: "...Native American students at this public university do not feel comfortable and safe. I, as a Native American student, do not feel comfortable on this campus. I feel that Michigamua is impinging upon my academic success."(41)
Within the atmosphere created by the university's silence on Michigamua's racism, "The Michigan Every Three Weekly" began trivializing the feelings of the Native community by printing parodies of the situation. Had the administration taken decisive action, the likelihood of an article like this one would have been greatly diminished. For many Native Americans this was adding insult to injury, and the article simply plays on the very stereotypes of Natives that are perpetrated by Michigamua and its practices.(43)
within this atmosphere, on 2/28/00 Karen (Snake) Brewer, after ten years of
service, submitted her resignation letter to her employer, the University
Health Service. In the letter she states: "On February 9, 2000 it came to
my attention that my Sacred Teachings, directly associated with my way of life,
had been ridiculed and desecrated by various administrators past and present of
this University, known as Michigamua, for 98 years. This is a racist attack
against my ancestors, my children and grandchildren. A hostile environment has
been created, and at this time, I cannot approach a resolution as long as I am
employed by the
to the Space Allocation Panel from Catherine Davids, Office of Educational
Joseph Reilly states in his 7/31/00 statement: "Maureen Hartford, then VP for Student Affairs, following a radio interview prior to the 1998 Ann Arbor Pow Wow made a remark to some Native American staff members, students, and alumni that she 'felt like Custer' when she attended a Nez Perce Pow Wow and horse show. She was made aware by the alumni present via e-mail the following day that her remarks were offensive and made the students and staff members feel uncomfortable. She disregarded the offense and defended herself saying that it was not her intention to offend anybody."(9)
Karen (Snake) Brewer says in her statement of 7/29/00: "Spoke with Kathy Miller and again expressed my concerns about the conflict with my identity as traditional Native American and the teachings vs. my responsibility as U of M staff member. E-mailed Lee Bollinger with my concerns, no response. My clinical manager suggested I think about my priorities and make a decision. Professionally there wasn't anything offered that could assist me in making my decision, I felt racially exposed and my 11 years of service to the U of M was not protected and I felt that I was alone in making this decision... I decided to resign because the deliberate racist attacks on me were supported by the U of M administration and my only true freedom was to sever my affiliation with U of M..."(46)
From Joseph Reilly's statement of 8/2/00: "We heard a lecture about American Indian history from an anthropological perspective. This was perhaps one of the most blatantly racist experiences of my time at the University. Native people were regarded as historical specimens, and sacred burial objects, taken from graves, were passed around the room for examination. I felt extremely uncomfortable and offended as pipes and other sacred and personal items were handled and displayed by non-native people in this way."
He continues, "I eventually learned that the University of Michigan Board of Regents owns 1,400 human remains of Native American people in addition to countless objects taken from graves and other archeological sites. Why does the University focus on human ownership of Native Americans as opposed to any other ethnic group? I asked this question to the Board of Regents at their meeting in April 2000 and received no response. I also e-mailed a statement and received no response."(47)
Tara Young, Former Associate Director of Admissions at the
VII. - The University of Michigan's role in fostering and encouraging an atmosphere of fear on university campuses, where students, faculty and staff do not speak out against the racist and discriminatory acts perpetuated by Michigamua and The University of Michigan for fear of repercussions, retaliation or reprisal:
As this complaint was prepared it became increasingly clear that there are students, faculty and staff, Native American, of color, and white, who would have signed on as complainants, but did not, owing to their fear of retaliation, reprisal, or other repercussions from the university administration.
The 2/23/00 Michigan Daily describes the MSA meeting of the night before: "...members addressed recalling Minority Affairs Commission co-Chairwoman Erika Dowdell, who last week announced her decision to file a lawsuit against the senior honor society Michigamua. Dowdell expressed her displeasure with assembly members discussing whether the assembly should recall her chair because she filed a complaint with the Michigan Civil Rights Commission against the secret society for its failure to abide by a contract from 1989 to clear all Native American artifacts out of the tower office... MSA President Bram Elias, a Michigamua member, 'had a conflict of interest and he tried to threaten my civil right to file a complaint as a student. He tried to use his power as president of the assembly to get me out. It's illegal.'"(49)
One faculty member did not sign because they were up for tenure soon.
Another faculty felt that the chance of some type of reprisal was simply too strong to risk signing.
Karen Brewer, who was on staff at Health Services, resigned, in part because of fear of reprisal if she would not have been able to abide by university rules and regulations, which basically precluded her from having any identity as a Native American while on the job.
There was a student group leader who stated that if his group were to sign on they might not get any more funds from MSA (Michigan Student Assembly) - there are Michigamua members who are also MSA members, so perhaps his fears were well founded.
There were also several individual students with various reasons for hesitation, or for not signing, including one who was also an employee with a young child and who was afraid of losing their income, and another with political aspirations who believed that signing onto the complaint might bring about repercussions which could jeopardize their chances of running for office one day.
The university has been notified by several individuals and organizations that the University of Michigan's preferential institutional support and encouragement of the student and alumnae group Michigamua is a form of racial and ethnic discrimination against Native American university community members, and that it must stop. Although the university has acknowledged receipt of these notifications, the university's discriminatory practices have continued unabated to the present day.
Additional documentation, items 53 - 65, are included as examples of the many letters and statements that have been made to President Bollinger and the university administration, regarding the unacceptability of the way The University of Michigan has handled our complaints, and the intolerable nature of the ongoing discrimination by The University of Michigan toward its Native American students, faculty and staff. Additional documentation of other notifications is available, as indicated at the outset of this complaint.
In addition to the massive correspondence notifying The University of Michigan of their alleged discrimination, the following actions took place on the university campus, to further increase the administration's awareness of its responsibility to correct the situation:
-Actions to Notify the University of its Discriminatory Activities:
2/04/00 SCC entered Fleming Bldg to deliver their demands
2/11/00 Sleep In on the 4th floor of the
2/17/00 Speaking to the Regents of the
2/19/00 300 Indians Rally on 1st floor of the
2/19/00 Rev Al Sharpton speaks to the U (press coverage)
2/24/00 310 Get Down Basketball Game Action
2/24/00 SCC members storm lecture on free speech by President Bollinger
2/24/00 SCC members and supporters BBQ on President Bollinger's lawn
3/09/00 R2R March through Campus and distribution of flyers
3/13/00 Blocking Union steps on the day SCC students came down
3/16/00 GAA Book Withdrawal from Library
3/20/00 Speaking to the Regents of the
3/21/00 Native American Speak Out Panel: Karen Brewer, Jose Marcus, Shannon
Martin, Marissa Ettawageshik. Facilitator: Andrew Adams III
3/22/00 GAA Press Release at
3/24/00 March from the Powwow at Crisler Arena to the
4/07/00 President Ford at the League - protest
4/13/00 Speaking to the Regents of the
4/17/00 "Michigamua 101: or why we might as well be flying the Confederate flag above the Michigan Union" presented by: Association of Black Social Work Students (ABSWS), Coalition of Asian-American/Pacific Islander Social Work Students (CASWS), Doctoral Student Organization (DSO), Graduate Action Alliance (GAA), Rainbow Network (RN), School of Social Work Student Union (SSWSU), Student Organization of Latino/a Social Workers (SOLASW) and Social Workers Advocating for Multi-culturalism (SWAM).
5/10/00 GAA meeting with E. Royster Harper
I. - Actions taken by The University of Michigan, which can only be taken as indicators of an attempt to knowingly and purposefully circumvent Civil Rights law, in order to continue the university's discriminatory practices against Native American university community members include, but are not limited to:
The statements and representations made by Bollinger and other administration officials in negotiations and meetings with the students occupying the Tower were inconsistent with public statements made in press releases and public relations pieces issued by the University on this issue. The administration tried to appease Native American protesters and their supporters in private meetings but then refused to be accountable in public.
From Voices from the Tower, issue 2: "During the past two weeks, while over a dozen students have withered away in the Union tower, and thousands of others have rallied in their support, the administration has misrepresented, stalled, made false statements, perpetuated an emotionally, physically, and spiritually harmful environment; neglected the responsibility to insure that all students are being provided the same opportunities to flourish and reach their fullest potential. The SCC has videotaped the entire occupation, including several meetings with administration officials. These tapes show Bollinger and the administration's inconsistencies and false statements, when taken in light of the press releases and statements issued by the administration for the past two weeks. We invite all interested media, civil rights organizations government officials, public servants, academia, and other persons not mentioned to view the materials and form your own opinion."(50)
Esther Marcus' statement of 8/1/00 points out that the University actually had already decided how it intended to deal with this issue when it proposed a resolution to the occupation of the Tower early on. "[In mid-February 2000] the U of M [administration] proposed that if Michigamua no longer had use of the tower that they would be provided with an interim space for two years; then they would be subject to the same rules that applied to other student groups. The draft proposal also included the establishment of a panel of U of M staff (at least 2 who were acceptable to the Native students and faculty). The panel was to review the space allocation process and decide if any group should have use of the tower."(51)
The above statement has implications as to the good faith of the administration. If they really intended to have The Panel meet and form its own recommendation, after consideration of public input at two public hearings, how is it that the eventual outcome of the hearings and the recommendations of the Panel mirror the University's settlement proposal? It is not "just a coincidence" that the administration proposed a two year transition period for these groups, well before the public hearings and the recommendation, and The Panel came out with the exact same result!
In addition, the administration made clear in several ways that the input of Native American and Native American supporters was not really desired, while at the same time trying to leave the impression that they valued that input, at several stages of the process. For example, historically when President Bollinger or others within the administration have deemed it necessary or important to make sure that every student receives certain information, they have found a way to send it to each and every student mailbox. When The Panel held its first public hearing, however, several students did not receive an e-mail notifying them. The hearings were advertised in the Ann Arbor News. These students didn't even know about these hearings until the first one had already passed. The administration's failure to use the same mass notification procedures as have been used in other circumstances reflects a desire not to include all interested students in the process.
When The Panel purportedly wanted to know what procedures were being followed across the university for the allocation of space to student groups, student group leaders received an e-mail requesting the information. However, the e-mail request for information was sent at approximately 5 pm on a Thursday, and it stated that the deadline to reply was at 5 pm on Friday. Again, if meaningful input truly was desired from student group leaders, then one would think that they would have been given more than 24 hours to respond.
Lastly, the administration has made public statements several times asserting that Michigamua has apologized fully to NASA and SCC for any pain that Michigamua may have caused them. What the administration has failed to point out is that Michigamua has never once apologized directly to NASA, SCC or any of its representatives and members. Rather, the University has tried to paint a picture in the public eye that this controversy has been fixed, that amends have been made, and that there is no reason to continue to be concerned, when such clearly is not the case. Native students and faculty are still being wronged by their continuing discriminatory actions. Michigamua has not apologized to those groups, has not stopped its misappropriation of Native culture and religion, and has not stopped its disregard, disrespect, and degradation of Native people.
of the tower The
B. Apology from the administration The U of M Administration should apologize to the Native American community for allowing Michigamua to continue its cultural degradations despite being informed of the situation on numerous occasions. Apologize for the harm done by The University of Michigan administration to the entire university community, through its informed inaction and complacency towards Michigamua's activities, acknowledging that such inaction has made a farce of the educative process and of diversity initiatives. The University should make a public statement acknowledging that the practices and traditions of the group Michigamua, though protected by the First Amendment, perpetuate oppressive stereotypes of Native American peoples, and are discriminatory in nature.
This apology must come from President Bollinger and the Board of Regents in written form to the following parties: all signers of this complaint, the Students of Color Coalition, the Native American Student Association, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, all Native American faculty and graduates, Shannon Martin at the Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs Office, Melissa Lopez, and the family of Victoria Barner. The apology must be published in the Michigan Daily, and the Ann Arbor News. If President Bollinger chooses to make a verbal apology, all parties must have a minimum of 2 weeks written notice as to the time and place, and be invited to attend.
C. Repatriation of ancestors The repatriation of the more than 1400 individual Native American skeletal remains, and numerous other objects that are sacred to Native American people, owned by the Board of Regents and used in University research and museum displays to Native Americans Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) officials.
on racism and mascots The
E. Public forums for discussions on racism Create bi-semester public forums in which concerns regarding racism on campus can be discussed. These forums could be facilitated collaboratively by students, faculty and administrators, and the subject matter raised in these forums could be made available to the public, used to help shape campus programs geared toward promoting diversity and education, and bring students from different backgrounds together to share their experience, strength and hope regarding both racism and diversity.
F. Public forums for discussions on Michigamua Create a panel that examines the history of Michigamua, paying special attention to the privileged status and special relationship that the group has had and continues to have with the University's administration. The panel could examine how Michigamua promotes stereotypic images of Native Americans and how these images interfere with the quality of one's education by creating, supporting, and maintaining oversimplified, inaccurate, and often racist views of Native peoples and their cultures.
use of Crisler Arena To show respect for Native American students, faculty
and staff, and to encourage the healing process regarding the 98 year history
of racism; the University of Michigan administration will support the Native
American Student Association (NASA) Powwow by free use of Crisler arena to
encourage, educate and promote the Native American culture. This must be in a
written contract to NASA from the
H. Eliminate hostile educational environment Make active efforts to recruit and retain Native American students, staff and faculty. Inclusion of Native American cultural sensitivity training in new student orientation for all incoming students. Require a curriculum that allows all students to confront their own racism. Create a policy whereby no student group shall have secret space or secret meetings.
I. Eliminate hostile work environment Inclusion of Native American cultural sensitivity training in new staff orientation for all newly hired staff. Establish a series of in-service trainings to educate staff on sensitivity to the Native American view on racism and the American Holocaust against indigenous peoples.
J. Native American representation Increase the number of Native American faculty, staff and students by at least 50% over the current level, within the next two years. That any recruitment of Native American faculty, staff and students be supported or advised by a Native American. To encourage a more positive educational and work environment for Native Americans, create the position of University Ombudsperson for the Native American campus community, with final hiring approval for the position to be done by NASA and the Multi-ethnic Student Affairs advisor of Native American students.
K. Uniformity of rules Enforcement of MSA Student Code of Conduct for the student groups Michigamua, Adara and Vulcans, equally as it is enforced for all other student groups, including, but not limited to, rules regulating alcohol on university property, hazing, and secrecy.
L. Non Retaliation The University of Michigan administration should agree that neither it nor any of its staff in their official capacities will take any action, legal or academic, against any person or group in connection with or arising out of any act, omission, or event related to supporting the seizure of the Tower and/or protesting, objecting to or complaining in any form about the actions of Michigamua or the University.