The month of April was an important one for anti-apartheid activists in Ann Arbor. On April 4, climaxing two weeks of actions, several hundred people rallied on the U-M campus and then marched through the streets of Ann Arbor to protest racism at the U-M and in South Africa.
On April 17 to 18, seventy people staged an all-night sit-in at the U-M Regents Board Room as part of their effort to persuade the University to grant an honorary degree to imprisoned African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela.
The following is the text of a speech by Roderick Linzie, M.S.A. Minority Enrollment Researcher, delivered to a meeting of the Regents on April 17, 1986.
The Michigan Student Assembly of the University of Michigan maintains a commitment to increased minority enrollment. The Assembly has repeatedly called for the University to focus on retention and has supported the nomination of Nelson Mandela for an honorary degree. Approximately one year after the article "Being Black at the U of M" was printed in the Detroit Free Press (3/31/86), it must be noted that no new plans have been implemented to improve the quality of minority student life at the University.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stated that "the largest part of white America is still poisoned by racism, which is as native to our soil as pine trees, sagebrush and buffalo grass....We must all learn to live together as brothers and sisters or we will perish together as fools."
The University of Michigan Affirmative Action Office reports that minority enrollment has reached an all time high of 11.5% (2,466). Yet, only 1,619 (5.2%) of the more than 31,000 students at Michigan are black. Five hundred fifty (1.8%) are Hispanic, 156 (.5%) are Native American and 1,404 (4.5%) are Asian American. These figures drastically fall short of the 10% black student enrollment target. The target was agreed upon in the Black Action Movement strike of 1970. In 1985, the four year graduation rate for black students was 26.6 (a mere 50 students), while it was 57.3% (2,183) for white students.
Black students trail their white counterparts by 18 percentage points in completion of their undergraduate degrees, even after six years from their freshman year. (cont. on page 6)
(cont. from page one)
There is a definite link between the struggle against racism, increasing minority student enrollment and granting Mr. Nelson Mandela an honorary degree. The University can send a clear message to prospective and currently enrolled minority students that it is creating a more hospitable educational climate for minorities and for all students. Will you honor those who struggle against the evils of racism?
In April, minority students and majority students erected a shanty on the Diag to show our collective concern about eliminating apartheid in Southern Africa and racism at the University. Students have jointly worked to demonstrate that the U-M is not a hostile or indifferent place. In order to bridge the gaps between the continents of our African, Asian, European, and Hispanic heritages, we exercized the right of free expression of our ideas and hopes.
We took a risk in exposing our abhorrance of a system of complete racial subjugation in Africa and racial inequality at the University of Michigan. We drew some attention to our different opinions and races.
We were attacked, our symbols were spit upon, burned and denigrated. The shanty was called a "nigger shack," "a piece of shit," that needed to be torn down. More than five times, the shanty was violently attacked. Each time the coward responsible for these terrorizing incidents were able to get away with their violence without arrest or detainment.
In one specific case, a security officer merely spoke to two white male students assaulting the shanty. No arrests have been made. It is regretable that President Shapiro and Provost Frye have not made public and specific statements about these attacks.
The attacks on the shanty and racist graffitti on campus, underscore the fear that black students have about the safety of our lives and the freedom to express our ideas in this hostile environment. I understand what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. meant about the American dilemma. King said that:
"We may have to repent not merely for the vitriolic actions and words of the bad people but also for the appalling silence of the good people."
The education of black students at the University is not receiving thoughtful protection and action. Dr. King wrote about the function of education which is to: "Teach one to think intensively and think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals. We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character...This is the goal of true education."
University of Michigan educators must focus on retention! The Student Assembly and the Free South Africa Coordinating Committee strongly urge that the Regents request a full report from President Shapiro, about these racist attacks on the shanty and the institutional responses to them.
Members of the Minority Organization of Rackham Graduate School, the organization founded to meet the needs of Rackham graduate students are present with a resolution that urges the Regents to grant an honorary degree to Nelson Mandela. To bestow his honor on Mandela is to bestow an honor on minority graduate students of African descent at the University. Granting an honorary degree even in absentia, will bestow honor upon the Black Faculty. It will bestow honor upon the Center for Afro American and African Studies and its interim Director, Professor Thomas Holt. And it will bestow honor on all the students who have sacrificed time and energy to support the Mandela nomination.
Dr. King stated the following about the South African situation, "We realize that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Therefore we are concerned about the problems of Africa as we are concerned about the problems of the United States."
Finally, the enrollment of minority students is a difficult problem. And, difficult problems often require difficult solutions. A difficult solution is also required in South Africa. There is concern among the Regents that Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress have not ruled out the possibility of using violence to abolish apartheid.
Thus, some argue that the University of Michigan should not grant him an honorary degree. Martin Luther King's tactics are often compared to those of Mr. Mandela's. Dr. King spoke about non-violence, but did not use it as an excuse for inaction and subjugation. The forces in South Africa want the argument to be used in that way. Dr. King said that; "Non-violence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. It is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends, but....it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Further, as much as I deplore violence, there is one evil that is worse than violence, and that's cowardice."
Mr. Mandela has chosen not to be a coward and deserves to be honored in absentia for his sacrifice on behalf of the humanity. We implore you to bestow upon Mr. Mandela an honorary degree and in so doing, honor all of us at the University of Michigan.
by Roderick K. Linzie, M.S.A. Minority Enrollment Researcher and F.S.A.C.C. member.
Roderick K. Linzie
University of Michigan Affirmative Action Office
University of Michigan
Minority Organization of Rackham Graduate School
Michigan Student Assembly (MSA)
Free South Africa Coordinating Committee (FSACC)
Center for Afro-American and African Studies
Black Action Movement (BAM)
African National Congress
Martin Luther King Jr.
Harold T. Shapiro
University of Michigan Regents Board Room
University of Michigan Diag