Quit Smoking at EMU!

If you’ve been on campus this summer, you have probably walked by one of these signs over the last month or two. Well, today is the day:  EMU is going Tobacco Free. I have two general thoughts about all this.

First, as a former smoker who gave it up over twenty years ago, I have gotten to the point where I now pretty much hate any whiff of cigarettes or cigars or whatever, so I am all for this ban. If anything, it seems to me like this tobacco ban should have been in place a long time ago. Just as points of comparison: U of M has been smoke-free since 2011, and Washtenaw Community College banned tobacco in 2005.

Second, we will see how this transition and the enforcement of this policy works out. I look forward to not having to walk through a cloud of smoke outside of Pray-Harrold Hall, but I think it will take a little time to really convince smokers that they aren’t supposed to be smoking there. And I’m not so sure EMU is ever really going to be able to ban smoking in parking lots and the like.

“Hurons logo, harassment prompt meeting at EMU”

From the Detroit News comes “Hurons logo, harassment prompt meeting at EMU.” Here’s the opening paragraphs:

U.S. Justice Department officials came to Eastern Michigan University this week to meet with president Susan Martin and a Native American campus group to discuss concerns over the continued use of the school’s Hurons logo after students allegedly harassed a Native American elder in April.

At the meeting Tuesday, Martin refused to remove the logo after being asked to by the EMU Native American Student Organization, according to Mark Fancher, a staff attorney for racial justice for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. Fancher attended the meeting at the request of the student group.

Martin returned the Hurons logo, which depicts a Native American face with paint and feathers, to the EMU Marching Band uniform in 2012 to promote what she calls the university’s history and pride. It is hidden under a front flap.

“She takes the position the logo was retired. Its presence under the flap does not equate its return,” Fancher said. “Martin says it’s a part of the university’s history. My response to that is yes — it’s a disgraceful part of the history. It is causing harm to the students. It needs to go.”

The article goes on to recount the recent incident where students were dressed up as mock Indians and they yelled at and threw a beer at Ypsi local Nathaniel Phillips, who is Native American and who is always described in these articles as a “Elder.”

I don’t think it was a good idea to put EMU’s past logos– including this one– under a hidden flap on the band uniforms, and I also am pretty certain that there is no cause and effect relationship between these uniforms and these drunken college kids yelling “We’re fucking Hurons!” at this Native American man who happened to be walking around Ypsilanti one night. Rather, I think the cause of that unfortunate incident was the combination of the fact that EMU once was “The Hurons,” Phillips is himself Native American, and those dumb kids had too much beer.

And I suspect that the powers that be at EMU were attempting a PR move that would have satisfied the “once a Huron, always a Huron” alumni, and now it’s coming back to bite them. I am almost certain my colleagues in the EMU communications office are wishing they had a “do-over” on that one.

But on a slightly different note: I have to say that as a professor who studies and teaches about rhetoric, I am pretty fascinated about the power of this hidden symbol. Remember: this logo is on the uniform but out of sight. Members of the band would know it’s there of course because they’re putting on the uniforms, but if the fact that it was there had not be publicized, we would never know that it was there.

So symbols– even the idea of a symbol, not even its actual manifestation of its presence to an audience– are incredibly powerful, and not merely as a metaphor. They are powerful enough to cause a meeting between the DOJ, the ACLU, EMU officials and lawyers, and student groups. That group of people certainly spent some time debating the removal of an image that few people can actually see. That’s pretty fascinating to me.

 

 

More lazy summer days & “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me”

Pretty quiet around here at EMUTalk.org, which is typical (summer, after all) and good. I’m still planning on closing things down here early in the fall and I’m still encouraging all of you to join the EMUTalk facebook group! You’ll be glad you did!

Anyway, a loyal EMUTalk reader (and also a member of that Facebook group!) sent me a link to this piece by Edward “not his real name” Schlosser writing for Vox, “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me.”  It’s an interesting piece. I don’t think I completely agree with it, though I have to admit that as a) a tenured full professor who b) is a middle-aged white male (and thus I am less vulnerable to various attacks and critiques, generally), and who c) doesn’t really teach a whole lot that is too controversial politically or culturally, particularly at the undergraduate level, I have little reason to be “afraid” of students’ accusations about me, liberal or conservative or otherwise. And I’m not sure that the conditions now amongst students regarding “political correctness” are that much different now than they were back when I was in college.

What I do think is different now though is the powers and perils of social media and the internet generally. All the problems and backlash that Schlosser talks about here were possible back in the 80s or 90s or so, but they become that much more magnified now. And I do think he definitely has a point that it’s problematic to make make too many assumptions about ideas and views based first on identity rather than the argument itself. Anyway, definitely worth a closer read.

A couple of Yiks and/or Yaks

Summer is always the slow season around EMUTalk, and in that sense, there’s not a whole lot different in this last season of the blog. No news is, well, no news. But I did come across a couple of kind of interesting articles on Yik Yak I thought I’d post.

Feminists United plans to announce at a news conference Thursday that it has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education alleging that members were threatened with sexual assault and death and were cyber-stalked after speaking out in campus debates about Greek life and against a lewd chant by the rugby team this year, said attorney Lisa Banks.

Authorities say that Grace Rebecca Mann, a 20-year-old from McLean, Va., who served on United’s board, was slain April 17 by a roommate. Steven Vander Briel was charged with first-degree murder and abduction. Police have not commented on an alleged motive.

Banks and United members said they have no evidence that Mann’s activism or the threats on Yik Yak were related to her slaying. But they said a flood of more than 700 messages — some of which targeted members by name — left them feeling afraid. They said school officials did nothing to stop the threats despite repeated requests throughout the year.

So, what I mean by it being “two stories” is it seems like there is an issue of the women who are in this group being harassed via Yik Yak and one of their members was killed by her roommate for some reason, probably not related to Yik Yak though.

“EMU students say dressing as Native Americans was part of theme party (WITH POLICE REPORT)”

Not much new going on lately (not surprising since we’re now into the slower months of spring and summer), but this story from the Ypsilanti Courier is kind of interesting: “EMU students say dressing as Native Americans was part of theme party (WITH POLICE REPORT).”  Here’s a quote:

An Eastern Michigan University police report has provided more details into an off-campus party where students dressed as Native Americans with faces and bodies painted with red paint.

The report sheds light on student behavior during the April 11 party, that included a game of beer pong that one man said was a metaphorical “impregnation ceremony.” It also includes interviews with party goers who said dressing up was part of a “theme party” and there were no racist overtones.

The police report, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, is part of a university investigation that could result in punishment for students involved if their behavior is deemed to have violated the university’s code of conduct. Names of those interviewed were redacted by university officials because of federal student privacy laws.

Here’s a link to the police report itself, which is posted on Scribd. As far as I can tell, what you’ve got here is a bunch of drunk college kids doing some racist and stupid things, which is to say that this pretty much confirms the previous story as well. Reading the actual police report is kind if interesting though.

“EMU student wears ‘Black Lives Matter’ t-shirt over gown at graduation”

From mLive comes “EMU student wears ‘Black Lives Matter’ t-shirt over gown at graduation.” It’s a story about how a graduating senior named Kenneth Hill pulled on a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt right before he crossed the stage at commencement.

I thought I’d share it here for two reasons. First, congratulations to all the graduating students! The article features lots and lots of other pictures from commencement, so you can go and check that out. Second, the comments on this story– there are over 900 of them right now– are pretty damn crazy, if you ask me. Or at least there are more than few pretty racist and otherwise cranky comments there.

“U-M community bands together after suicidal note on Yik Yak”

From mLive comes “U-M community bands together after suicidal note on Yik Yak,” which is another story that makes it clear that Yik Yak is not just a tool for bullying faculty or posting racist rants. Here’s a quote:

A short post on social media titled “Thank you & Bye” prompted a large response and discussion of mental illness on the University of Michigan campus this weekend.

Community members took to the anonymous, location-based social media app Yik Yak and to University of Michigan Diag on Sunday after someone posted about an apparently planned suicide.

and…

Students such as English senior Hannah Maine, 21, said the gathering and programs such as the Wolverine Support Network are opportunities for better open-dialogue on issues of mental illness.

“People don’t feel comfortable admitting ‘I have depression’ or ‘I have suicidal thoughts’ because of all the stigma, but hopefully these types of things will help take that away,” she said. “You need to talk about it otherwise it’s not going to get better.”

Maine said Yik Yak has been a helpful way for students, such as herself, to address similar struggles and stress anonymously.

“EMU creates chief diversity officer job after racially charged incidents”

I would have posted about this earlier, but I was (as they say) “away” from the Internets. But as reported in mLive (and as the campus saw in an email from President Martin included in the mLive story), “EMU creates chief diversity officer job after racially charged incidents.” Here’s the paragraph where Martin talks about this new position:

This is why I am announcing that we will add a new position to the University’s senior leadership team: Chief Diversity Officer. This individual will serve as the senior executive on the leadership team responsible for efforts related to diversity, inclusion and equity. The individual will advise the president, senior leaders and campus units on policies, processes, and practices intended to foster a most diverse and inclusive campus where all members of the university community can thrive and contribute to the University’s mission and core values.

I guess I have kind of mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it seems to me like this particular incident deserves an actual response from Martin, at least something along the lines of “I think those students behaved badly” or what-have-you. And I’m just not so sure hiring another administrator is a solution to this.

On the other hand, a “Chief Diversity Officer” is a position that apparently does exist on a lot of campuses. As far as I can tell, it’s a position that tends to bring together under one leader things like Title IX issues, equal employment issues, and to address issues like this infamous party. So maybe it’s a good idea.

“Rally planned at EMU after Native American man reports harassment”

From mLive comes “Rally planned at EMU after Native American man reports harassment.” Here’s a quote:

Native American students at Eastern Michigan University are hosting an on-campus rally Wednesday at 3 p.m.

The Native American Student Organization will gather outside the student center near the lakeside entrance to discuss a recent altercation between students and a Native American man at an off-campus party in Ypsilanti.

There’s one other bit of news that I hadn’t seen previously about this incident in the story. The Ypsi cops came and busted up the party after Phillips’ complaint and there is an EMU investigation going on “for internal purposes.”

“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.”
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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.'”

Jeesh.

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?!