By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The University of Michigan-Dearborn issued an apology after promoting two separate events involving virtual cafes for non people of color, and black, indigenous and people of color held Sept. 8.
Both events were held at the same time, according to now-deleted descriptions of the online meetings and hosted by the UM-D Center for Social Justice and Inclusion.
It also said the cafe will be held bi-monthly, on the first Tuesday and third Wednesday of every month with changes to dates and times depending on feedback and demand.
Each cafe had a faculty or staff member as a facilitator to ensure that discussions were kept safe and respectful.
“The Non-POC Cafe is a space for students that do not identify as persons of color to gather and to discuss their experience as students on campus and as non-POC in the world,” the non-POC description read.
“The BIPOC Cafe is a space for student from marginalized racial/ethnic/cultural communities to gather and to relate with one another and to discuss their experience as students on campus and as people of color in the world,” the BIPOC description said.
On Twitter, several tweets called out UM-D for holding separate events, claiming segregation and questioning why the university would have a non-POC-only cafe.
The Sept. 9 apology issued by the university said that UM-Dearborn regrets the terms used to describe the events.
“The terms used to describe these virtual events and the descriptions themselves were not clear and not reflective of the university’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” the apology also read. “University of Michigan-Dearborn is committed to fostering and maintaining an inclusive campus environment and encourages ongoing dialogue amongst our students, faculty and staff on challenging issues.”
Due to COVID-19, events are operating in a predominantly remote capacity and the Center for Social Justice and Inclusion has looked to develop virtual spaces that allow for these conversations to continue, the statement read.
The events will continue, but will have different language in future promotion.
“The ‘cafes’ were virtual open conversations developed to allow students the opportunity to connect to process current events, share their experiences related to race, share knowledge and resources and brainstorm solutions,” the statement read. “The original intent was to provide students from marginalized communities a space that allowed for them to exist freely without having to normalize their lives and experiences, while also providing students that do not identify as persons of color the opportunity to deepen their understanding of race and racism without harming or relying on students of color to educate them.”
The university said the events were not intended to be exclusive or exclusionary for individuals of a certain race and that both events were open to all members of the UM-D campus community.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])