Last week, University President Mark Schlissel and the Board of Regents decided to consider speaking with Richard Spencer and his team regarding his request to speak on campus. While Spencer has not been officially invited to Ann Arbor, the decision has generated extreme backlash from many on campus. This has led to the formation of an ad hoc student coalition known as Stop Spencer at the University of Michigan, an alliance of numerous student organizations including Students4Justice, Radfun, College Democrats, SAFE, and others. The coalition is leading protests and student activism in response to the university’s decisions.
Starting on Tuesday, protesters held a Stop Spencer “Speak Out”, in which many students vocalized their fears of allowing Spencer to speak on campus. Student Matthew Holland said that the University’s decision was a “pretty f**king low bar” that they “managed to miss”. Most notably, fifth year senior Dana Greene Jr., a student who earlier in the year kneeled on the Diag for over 20 hours, noted in his speech that many administrators came up to him during his kneel to apologize and console him. “Those same lips” that came up to him to console him the day he kneeled, Dana argued, discouraged him and others from protesting and speaking out.
He continued questioning the university’s position.“How dare you ask me or anyone on this campus not to speak against hate.” This comment made reference to a point in President Schlissel’s interview with the Michigan Daily where he expressed his fear that Spencer is “laughing at us” and that these protests will only give him what he wants. Students responded by saying that they were not protesting Richard Spencer but rather Schlissel himself and the Regents for allowing this. Many others spoke in anger, saying that they felt unsupported by the university for not actively denying the request.
In the Fishbowl, junior Princess Felix confronted protesters by saying, “If you’re not going to listen to people, then you don’t have a right to be heard. You listen to others, and you will be heard.”
On Wednesday, the same student organizers led a walkout, which started at the Diag and would eventually work its way through the “Fishbowl” computer lab and the Michigan Union before ending just off State Street. Students chanted, “No Spencer, No KKK, No Fascist USA,” and, “Hey hey, ho ho, these racist admins got to go”, among others. LSA student and official Stop Spencer’s press contact Hoai An Pham helped start off proceedings by saying it was, “not her f**king job” to be protesting against someone like Spencer, and that it was beholden of university to deny this request. Later, as protests gravitated toward the Union, I asked some of the other student organizers if they would like to comment, and was directed to Hoai An Pham. She, on behalf of the Stop Spencer organization, declined to comment, saying that the Michigan Review, “had readers from the alt-right” and would not want to be associated with our paper in any way.
Following her statement, while I stepped back and took notes,she pointed me out to everyone there to make sure they knew I was a member of the Review and to “not take any of [my] questions.” Meanwhile, her and many of the other student leaders interviewed with a local news station in front of me at the Union steps, where many other student organizations commented on the events. She was quoted in the piece for the local station, saying that while Richard Spencer had a right to free speech, she had a right to “not fear for her life” on campus. In addition, student Vidhya Aravind stated she was “terrified” about the prospect of Spencer coming on campus.
In the Fishbowl, junior Princess Felix confronted protesters by saying, “If you’re not going to listen to people, then you don’t have a right to be heard. You listen to others, and you will be heard.” However, she would be drowned out by continued protests in the diag and the Fishbowl.
On Thursday, student organizers are helping to organize an all day strike, in which they called upon instructors to, “[cancel] class, discussions, labs and any other academic obligations on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017.” Approximately twenty to thirty students sat in the dean’s office later that day, waiting for a response. Throughout the office, protesters hung multiple signs lambasting Schlissel as a “coward”. Some classes have been cancelled while others are proceeding as normal. The week of protesting will conclude with another rally today followed by a community discussion at Rackham Auditorium.