“EMU investigating allegations of racism where off-campus students were dressed as Native Americans”

I was going to post the email that Geoff Larcom sent around about this, but then this morning, I see it’s been picked up by the mainstream media too. The best story comes from WXYZ channel 7 (Detroit’s ABC affiliate), “EMU investigating allegations of racism where off-campus students were dressed as Native Americans.”

The video is definitely worth watching. Basically, Nathan Phillips, who is described as a Native American man in his 60s who has lived in Ypsi for eight years, came across a loud party last weekend. Here’s a quote from this piece that explains what happened next.

When he approached closer, he saw about 30 to 40 students partying and noticed that about half of them were wearing “Redface” and sporting feathered headpieces.

Phillips asked the students what they were doing. They told him they were honoring Native Americans and told Phillips, “We’re the F-ing Hurons!” EMU’s nickname used to be the Hurons before the university changed it to the Eagles in the ‘90s.

Phillips responded, “This isn’t honoring us, this is racist. And as soon as I said ‘racist,’ it turned from honoring the Indians to, ‘Go back to the reservation, you F-ing Indian, get the F out of here.’”

In the scuffle, someone threw a beer can at Phillips.

The video also features Michelle Lietz, vice president of the Native American Student Organization at EMU (who is also a grad student in my department, by the way), and she said she and her organization worked all week to get EMU to investigate this. To quote again from the piece, “Lietz said, ‘It’s a great opportunity for them to finally come out and condemn this sort of behavior.'”


First off, this is obviously stupid and condemnable behavior, so I do hope EMU comes out with some kind of statement or action that is a little more “meaty” than “We’re going to look into this and get to the bottom of things.” Second though, since this happened off-campus, I’m not sure there’s much that EMU can do about it.

But third, isn’t really about time to put this “we’ll always be the Hurons!” nonsense to rest? Honestly, it’s been over 20 years now that EMU’s mascot switched to the Eagles. The “F-ing Hurons” involved in this incident weren’t even born yet.

And I think this is just another example of the mistake of not picking up the emu as a mascot, too.  I have no evidence to support this claim of course, but I’m completely convinced (in my own head) that had we become the EMU Fighting Emus none of these “Always a Huron” incidents would have taken place because they wouldn’t make sense. I mean, sure, we were the Hurons, but how cool is it now that we’re the emus?!

15 thoughts on ““EMU investigating allegations of racism where off-campus students were dressed as Native Americans”

    • Really? That’s your concern, that a grown man is walking around town at night? Are you saying we ought to keep the grown-ups locked inside so the racist and drunk college kids can have their fun? Hmmmm…..


  1. Off campus violations can still be brought to the Student Conduct office for review and possible sanctions. Just look at all the publicity (negative) this is providing. Tsk Tsk


  2. I wish we were the Fighting Emus instead of the Eagles. But, I still always be able to claim to be an EMU Huron as that is what the mascot/name was when I graduated. I also graduated as an EMU Eagle.


  3. Most that live here know Nathan is always wondering around late at night. He’s also not very kind generally. I’m native American and truthfully I feel he is a disgrace to the race. This is going to start problems in a town where I have never seen anyone dressed up as an ” Indian”for holloween. Ann Arbor…. it’s every where, yes dressing as a native American is racist. It’s different , you need too under stand regalia, boarding schools, native American holocaust… ext.


  4. I have trouble with this because todays students don’t care one iota about the Hurons … most were not alive when the name change happened and a large percentage don’t even know EMU was EVER called the Hurons … so why would a student-off-campus party have some Huron party? It makes no sense …at a basketball game just two years ago a trivia promotional game asked a student multiple choice questions abut EMU’s past name — he missed Huron even though it was one of the answers. So color me a skeptic about a “Huron” party –

    what does make sense is that, lets face it, white college males fueled by alcohol will make stupid decisions and poor choices … that will never change but I don’t think it raises to a national news level so I hope we don’t waste too much energy on this when there are other pressing issues facing EMU and its students – especially off-campus


    • What’s particularly horrible is that most of the people at that party who were dressed in redface and feathered headdresses were probably stone sober when they purchased those items. This isn’t just drunk people acting stupid. This is behavior that these people find appropriate not just while drunk, but apparently always.

      I’m so horrified that some of these students, prejudiced, hurtful, and ignorant as they are, will graduate and represent EMU. And whatever set of values led these students to throw this party is not going to magically disappear because EMU investigated the party and a couple news sources condemned their behavior. No, most of these people will spend their lives engaging in casual racism and making EMU look bad in the process. It’s irritating because that’s not what most EMU students are like (I hope).


  5. If these students had dressed up in black-face, would you still feel it wasn’t a big deal? If that would be a big deal, then why not this. Racism is racism, regardless of the target. If that also wouldn’t bother you, then I don’t know what to say.


  6. Bothering me and rising to the level of a national discussion are not the same … the incident happened off campus and we have heard one side only. What do these “protestors” want from the university after an incident off campus? I understand its 2015 and we over react to everything and we are up in each others business, but yes, there are more important issues we should be focusing on, especially on campus.

    BTW, downtown Ypsi folk know the guy in question and he is, lets say, an interesting character. Some would say he is nuts … so lets not lower the boom on everyone until things get sorted.


    • Grady, I’ve got to disagree with you on all points, particularly your characterization of our opposition to redface and an extremely hostile verbal assault on a man due to his race as ‘overreacting to everything’ and being ‘up in each other’s business’ and your assertion that there are more important issues we should be focusing on on campus.

      Please, regale me with what you consider to be a more important issue on campus. Is it how much adjuncts get paid? The cost of housing? What gen eds should be required? Because I’m sorry, but having a pack of students on campus who would tell a Native American man to “go back to the reservation” and throw a beer can at him is 1) more important, and 2) also not incompatible with addressing other priorities on campus. It’s not as though addressing other problems will grind to a halt as all staff on campus begin work 24/7 on addressing why there’s a pack of racist shits besmirching EMU’s name.

      To be honest, I don’t care what people think of him. I don’t care if he’s Voldemort. I haven’t heard that anyone’s contesting what went down between this man and the students, so I’m really sorry that you don’t think unpopular people are entitled to walk around their neighborhood without enduring verbal and physical assaults on the basis of their race, but you’re dead wrong.


  7. Any conversation related to the person who saw these students is irrelevant and victim blaming. The students did something very stupid regardless of who found out about it. Don’t diminish/side step them to say the guy who noticed it is rude, old, drunk, high..


  8. Waldo – you have not heard anything yet, except the ramblings of a man that might not be all there … so rush to judgement if you must, but I wont. Its kinda funny how you are so sure what happened actually happened while the objective person would wait for more.

    What is a HUGE issue on campus is the assault on free speech, discourse, and civil conversations about any issue – all driven by left wing PC students with an enabling administration. Just about every other day I read how ideas are closed down by this ultra-extreme segment that is becoming the norm on campus … here is ONE example and Site Dad can share any of the others I send him each week. URL: http://reason.com/blog/2015/04/23/oberlin-activists-posted-creepy-messages

    Why is this important? Because it is the assault on speech and ideas that leads to OVER reactions such as this one … our enabling administration (and others) coddles to anyone that offended and after a while, well, that can be an issue because they are offended by EVERYTHING.

    Here is another link to the story that precedes the first. http://reason.com/blog/2015/04/22/interview-wih-christina-hoff-sommers-saf#.jfmpmv:Qpn1

    Colleges are supposed to be about ideas and challenging the status quo and open discussions … now they are becoming 1984-esqe cells where only the opinion of the popular is allowed to be discussed and all else must be shut down, violently if needed. Oh, and these students are the biggest whiners we have ever produced and I would not hire grad one that takes part in these assaults on liberty.


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