On Martin Luther King Day, minority students at the University of Michigan made a list of demands, speaking out against what they feel is a hostile campus climate for people of color. Within days, the university capitulated to the group’s most costly request: a $300,000 renovation of the multicultural center.
Which begs the question: If U-M is as cruel and lonely a place for students of color as they claim it is, why do they always get what they want?
In reality, U-M could not possibly be more committed to appeasing minority students. In pursuit of racial diversity, administrators have proved willing to do just about anything: they fought an anti-affirmative action measure supported by 60 percent of Michigan voters, directed their legal experts to find ways around the law, and even provided monetary aid to minority groups in their efforts to protest the law.
In November, students of color undertook an effort to draw national media attention to their grievances, using the hashtag “Being Black at the University of Michigan” on social media to explain why their experiences at U-M have left them feeling marginalized. Said grievances were much was less riveting than advertised. One student wrote, “Having your opinions be second guessed or ignored in a group assignment.” Another wrote, “Being soft spoken in class because you don’t feel you belong, but then being docked points because you are not engaged in class.”
Such anecdotes hardly demonstrate that the campus is a hostile place for black students. Certainly many students can relate to them, minority status or not. Still, minority student groups—including the Black Student Union and BAMN, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary—are insistent that the campus remains fundamentally unchanged since the 60s and 70s.
The grievances may not be clear, but the demands are crystal. Leaders of the Black Student Union want the university to create more classes that study racial issues--even though many such classes already exist, and all liberal arts students are required to take them. They want emergency tuition assistance for minority students, even though skyrocketing tuition costs are a concern for all students, regardless of race. They want proportional representation on campus--even though the law explicitly prohibits race-based admissions. And they want more funding and a brand new multiculturalism center. They will get it.
It’s no surprise that most members of the U-M community support these things. The student body, faculty, and administration all lean heavily to the left and overwhelmingly support liberal policies.
But if any U-M students have a reason to feel marginalized on campus, it’s non-liberals, not racial minorities. Libertarians and conservatives are underrepresented among the student body, and are almost nonexistent among the faculty and administration. These students receive little institutional or emotional support: no capitulation to demands, no weekly meetings with the administration, no $300,000 budget. One libertarian student group couldn’t even get the administration to cough up a couple thousand dollars to bring an anti-affirmative action speaker to give a lecture on campus. The Young Americans for Liberty were denied campus activities funds on the grounds their event was “political.”
Nevermind that just a few weeks earlier the university had given funding to BAMN so that its members could travel to the Washington, D.C., to protest in favor of affirmative action on the steps of the Supreme Court. Which was not deemed political.
YAL has filed suit, alleging political discrimination. But at a campus where people who hold a minority viewpoint must sue to have their rights recognized, how could anyone say that students of color are the marginalized group?
Robby Soave is a Michigan-based reporter for The Daily Caller and a 2010 graduate of the University of Michigan.