The University of Michigan-Dearborn expressed regret on Wednesday after a social media post that appeared to encourage students to segregate themselves for discussions about race and current events.
The post identified one “cafe,” or virtual discussion group, as being specifically for White people, leading to accusations of racism online. Adeb A. Ayoub, who serves as Legal and Policy Director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, flagged the post an in a tweet on Wednesday.
It read: “The Non-POC (People of Color) 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.”
Another post described the BIPOC Cafe — for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color — as “a space for marginalized racial/ethnic/cultural communities to gather and to relate with one another to discuss their experience as students on campus and as people of color in the world.”
In a statement provided to Fox News, the university claimed the events were never intended to exclude particular races but indicated it was concerned about White students “harming” other students in discussion.
“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,” said Beth Marmarelli, Executive Director of Communications and Marketing.
“The events were never intended to be exclusive or exclusionary for individuals of a certain race. Both events were open to all members of the UM-Dearborn campus community,” she added.
Marmarelli also clarified that “both events were open to all members of the UM-Dearborn campus community – regardless of the number of attendees.” When asked about the claim that White students could harm others, Marmarelli pointed to potential emotional distress.
“The events were designed to create opportunities for all students to discuss their life experiences openly and honestly – for some, this might be an emotional experience,” she said.
The University of Michigan previously came under fire for its “bias response” team, which the Justice Department labeled an attempt to violate free speech. The university president accused the DOJ of havig “misstated University of Michigan policy and painted a false portrait of speech on our campus.” The university said in the fall of 2019 that it would not reinstate the team as part of a settlement agreement with the non-profit Speech First.
Wednesday’s incident was the latest in a series underscoring escalating tensions as universities and other public institutions attempt to respond to recent racial unrest. Fox News recently reported on a quiz, obtained by Young America’s Foundation, in which Vanderbilt students were effectively told that the U.S. Constitution was designed to perpetuate White supremacy. In another course at Iowa State University, a professor threatened to dismiss students who opposed abortion or the Black Lives Matter organization.
And just last week, President Trump barred the federal government from holding employee trainings based on critical race theory and the concept of White privilege. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Russ Vought released a memo describing the trainings as “anti-American propaganda.”
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.