March 13, 2000

Statement by President Bollinger re: panel on space allocation

As I stressed in my Statement of February 17, 2000, "practices that negatively stereotype groups in our society cause unjust pain and humiliation. I believe such practices are not acceptable behaviors in a University that values and fosters diversity. We must never take lightly the effects of such perceptions and behaviors." While this University honors the principle that individuals and groups within the University community must be free to express a wide variety of beliefs and ideas, it is also committed to ensuring that its own institutional voice on the subject of racial and ethnic respect be unequivocal. The University simply does not condone practices that denigrate the values or traditions of particular racial or ethnic groups. Finally, it must also be said that the University does not condone the illegal occupation of University premises by any student group.

The recent protests about the Michigamua student organization have raised an important question as to the proper nature and scope of University involvement with student organizations. Accordingly, the panel described in my Statement of February 25, 2000 that is considering the question of privileged space also will consider under what circumstances and in what ways the University, its administrators and faculty members should be associated with such organizations and it will recommend guiding principles in this regard. The University's Executive Officers and I will then decide whether and how to implement such principles.

In considering this issue, the panel will consider the concerns that have been expressed about whether and to what extent associations between the University, its administrators or faculty can or have given rise to the impression that the University endorses racial or ethnic ridicule, and whether and to what extent those associations can or have contributed to marginalizing or disenfranchising other groups or students. The panel will also consider applicable civil rights and anti-discrimination principles as well as applicable First Amendment principles such as freedom of speech and freedom of association.

As with the question of privileged space, the panel will gather public input in a variety of ways including holding public hearings to solicit student, staff, faculty and community member input. The panel will work expeditiously and make its recommendations regarding space before April 13, 2000. The panel will make its recommendation on all other issues before it by October 2, 2000. The decisions the University makes about the assignment and use of the Michigan Union tower and any other exclusively assigned space will be made prior to the beginning of the Fall 2000 academic term. The panel will issue its findings and recommendations on all questions before it in written form, and those findings and recommendations will be published to all interested parties and the public.

Contact: Julie Peterson
Phone: (734) 764-7260
E-mail: juliep@umich.edu