Wayne State University’s Black Student Union (BSU) held a protest last week in response to a hate crime in one of their housing facilities, a BSU representative confirmed recently. BSU also held a press conference on Wednesday officially announcing their list of demands as a result of the recent events and because of long-standing racial inequalities on WSU’s campus, according to BSU.
“Many minority students, specifically African Americans, at Wayne State University have silently suffered and tolerated the racism and biases prevalent in various areas of the campus,” a letter from BSU dated March 16 stated. “This bias is shown from the dorm rooms to the classrooms.”
The reported hate crime in question revolved around WSU student Zoriana Martinez who was reportedly harassed, bullied, and ultimately forced to leave campus for her own safety.
“We can no longer be silent,” the letter added. “It is our position that it is our collective responsibility to ensure that no other Wayne State student endures this type of hate, hurt, embarrassment, racism, and harassment in the dorms, in the classroom, or during their college experience again. Recognizing this incident and the way it was handled is only a microcosm of the macrocosm.”
According to an article from the Detroit Free Press, Martinez said that, on three separate occasions, vandals have egged the door to her room at Leon Atchison Hall, targeting her Black Lives Matter and Gay Pride stickers, and took her “All you need is love” welcome mat. Martinez, a first-year transfer student from Ohio-based Oberlin College, is now living in an off-campus apartment in Midtown, per the article.
Martinez reported the first incident to the university’s housing staff, according to the article. Later, when she reported the second incident, Martinez was told that no report had been filed for the first one – which was based on some miscommunication. After a third incident, Martinez said she chose to move out.
WSU officials noted in response that the university has a zero-tolerance policy for “acts of hate toward anyone for any reason, including race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, or other identities,” per the article.
BSU feels differently. BSU’s letter went on to describe how Wayne State University has “yet to properly prioritize the safety of Black Lives,” along with the quality of Black Education, the importance of Black student organizers, and the overall needs of Black students.
BSU created nine demands, which target housing, the African American Studies Department, and Black Student organizers, and were created by students with the advisement of professors, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members. They include:
- That the Wayne State University and the Office of Housing and Residential life take a public and bold stance against racism and its enablers.
- Immediate removal of Nikki Dunham, Head of Housing, or a radical behavior change that is “more proactive work” against racist incidents and transparency towards the entire student body.
- They demand that upper housing staff reflect the population they serve, which is diverse amongst ethnic backgrounds.
- Increased focus on resident advisor training that includes racial sensitivity, sexual assault, and empathy-building exercises. This training should not only be mandatory but recurring.
- Accountability, programs, and spaces that allow minorities to gather and feel safe.
- Public documentation of the process upper housing administration goes through when hateful racial incidents occur.
- They demand that there be a picture of Leon H. Atchison on every floor to honor his name.
- They demand a Housing Liaison for incoming students within marginalized communities.
- They want housing to be more affordable.
- A meal plan should be included within the room and board costs.
- Better quality of food and an additional cafeteria.
- They want an increase to 12 full-time tenure track faculty in the African American Studies Department; as well as establish a graduate program in AFS that fully funds its students. We are also calling for the Coleman A. Young Endowed Chair to be housed and filled by the African American Studies Department, not Urban Studies, which has zero Black faculty members.
- They want a fully-funded student support network for graduation and retention that includes stipends for students and is modeled after the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies program. The program must include an ample programming budget that will be jointly curated by the Black Student Union and representatives from African American Studies Department.
- They want WSU to raise $1 million in funds for the endowment started by Former Professor Eboe Hutchful.
- They want a freestanding space for Black students that has state-of-the-art technological capabilities and access; a space that highlights and respects Black culture. Is multipurpose for large public gatherings and other Black student organization events. Including Study rooms, meeting rooms, and learning centers.
- They want a programming budget of $50,000 for the Black Student Union Wayne State University Chapter.
- They demand the establishment of a legal defense fund to fight the legislation that bans affirmative action.
View Martinez’s video (courtesy of BSU) here.
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