Open Letter to The University of Michigan Regents and University Leadership

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May 4, 2024

Open Letter to The University of Michigan Regents and University Leadership:

We are faculty, staff, alumni, and parents of students at the University of Michigan. We strongly condemn the University of Michigan Regents’ choice last night to suppress student protest and squander public resources by calling in local and state police units. Why, seven months later, do they still refuse to engage in an open dialogue with students? We also condemn the unnecessary escalation, unprofessionalism, and excessive uses of force that the police units from DPSS, Michigan State Police, and the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Police Department used to attack students exercising their rights to assemble, protest, and speak. These actions were also experienced and witnessed by faculty, staff, parents, and community members.

For the past 12 days, students, representing a range of backgrounds, have been been encamped on the Diag to express their opposition to our university’s complicity in the ongoing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. Among their many educational and community-building activities, they have reiterated their desire to meet with President Ono and the University of Michigan Regents – all of whom have refused. The students maintain their focus on ending U-M’s complicity in the atrocities of Gaza. The encampment has hosted activities from teach-ins and movie screenings to shabbat dinners, all with the aim of educating the broader campus community about the severity of the issues at hand. They are engaged in precisely the kind of activities our university mission upholds, they are “developing” themselves “as leaders and citizens who [will] challenge the present and enrich the future.” They have seen broad support from the campus and local communities and they are building on the legacy of student protest that the university regularly celebrates. We have witnessed them showing compassionate support for one another and moving through conflict with integrity. Yet in spite of these inspiring actions by our students, the university administration needlessly escalated the situation and turned our campus into a militarized zone.

We are deeply concerned for the well-being and safety of our students – as is our duty as educators, alumni, parents, and those who work with students – and as ought to have been the duty of all administrators. Last night, we witnessed police pepper spray, push, and choke students, push metal barricades against them, take students’ megaphones, flags, and other possessions, and lift bicycles and use them as weapons – not to mention the use of inappropriate language and threats. We also witnessed one police vehicle speed across the lawn, coming dangerously close to hitting student protesters and those gathered to support them, which included faculty, staff, and community members. The car then proceeded to run over the students’ food shopping cart. As a result of these events, students suffered numerous injuries.

Yesterday’s actions are a culmination of (1) the pattern of our elected Regents’ ongoing refusal to meet with students and (2) repressive actions and demonizing language on the part of President Ono, administrators, and the Regents that falsely posits students as threats to the well-being of others – disingenuously invoking anti-semitism – all the while disregarding the safety and well-being of Palestinian, Arab, Jewish, and Muslim students. This is a dereliction of duty, especially for the Regents who laugh at students and condescend to them on social media rather than engage with them in good faith. We condemn in no uncertain terms the actions of our university leadership and of this police repression. We place all responsibility for this escalation at the feet of the Regents.

We stand with our students. We uphold their right to learn, to express their points of view, and to organize in support of the issues they care about. We demand the immediate reversal of any and all bannings from campus buildings and amnesty for all students involved. We demand the Regents fulfill their political duties and meet with their constituents. We demand the administration of our university perform their duty and model being “leaders and best,” as other universities have demonstrated is possible.



University of Michigan Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine

Sign here (if you are UM faculty, staff, alumni, or parent)

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