UM students call for equitable investment at Flint, Dearborn campuses
Ann Arbor — Students from all three University of Michigan campuses rallied in Ann Arbor on Wednesday to call on the university to invest $100 million in the Dearborn and Flint campuses over the next five years.
Dozens of students, faulty and guests arrived at the rally wearing matching "Fund Our Future" T-shirts and holding signs demanding equitable funding at UM's campuses.
"Our students and community members have faced many systemic barriers, which have been amplified due to the Flint Water Crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic," said Levi Nathaniel Todd, student body president at UM-Flint, in a statement. "The University of Michigan continues to claim that its core values are diversity, equity, and inclusion but its actions do not align with its words."
The demonstration started with a press conference in Flint, where students from UM-Flint's student government spoke about the importance of the Flint campus.
"UM-Flint has played a pivotal role in the University of Michigan system for almost 65 years, providing common people with an uncommon education," added Todd, who joined forces with the student body presidents of UM-Ann Arbor and UM-Dearborn for the rally on Ann Arbor's campus in front of Rackham Graduate School.
In recent years, a coalition has lobbied for UM officials for greater funding, health, legal and other programs offered at the Ann Arbor campus but have not been a part of the Flint and Dearborn campuses.
They have noted that the university's $12 billion endowment is one of the largest of any public institution.
The university had no comment Wednesday in response to the rally.
In the past, university officials have said each campus sets its own priorities for diversity, equity and inclusion that fit its needs. Additionally, officials have noted UM-Ann Arbor has programs that are supported by its own campus funding but also benefit the other campuses. UM also has advocated for greater state-level investment in direct-to-student need-based financial aid.
On Wednesday, rally organizers arranged for buses to provide transportation for students from Flint and Dearborn for the rally.
Frankie Makintosh, a student from UM-Flint, shared an emotional poem about the deep-rooted systemic racism Makintosh contends is behind UM's lack of equitable funding for Dearborn and Flint.
"We need our leaders to act upon their pledge values and be bold in their advocacy for students," said Makintosh. "Today is about hope, frustration and the acknowledgement that we know that we deserve better."
Following statements from faculty and students from each campus, the group marched through campus to University of Michigan's President Mark Schlissel's home as they chanted for action to be taken.
"It is essential for this administration to commit to the long-term sustainability of Dearborn and Flint through central funding," said Maria Joseph, student speaker from UM-Dearborn. "Without it, it feels as though we are reject students at reject campuses, but we're not."