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Flint, MI–The One University Coalition (1U) held a rally today in downtown Flint to protest what they claim is a lack of support from University of Michigan Regent Michael J. Behm for the UM-Flint campus.
Held in front of Behm and Behm law offices, one block away from the UM-Flint campus, the group of about 30 people chanted phrases including “no more empty words, we deserve to be heard,” and “public institution, where is the public contribution?”
Standing on the law office’s lawn, UM-Flint anthropology student Alysa Treviño spoke about Behm’s past promises and how, “although he frequently describes himself as a supporter of the Flint campus, he has not stood up for Flint and Dearborn by committing to equity for our campuses.”
Treviño went on to say that Behm has not endorsed the idea of using the University of Michigan’s $12.4 billion endowment, one of the coalition’s key demands, to “support the university’s most vulnerable members.” She also said Behm has shown a lack of communication with 1U and dismissed their requests for meetings.
Behm, who is chairing a newly established committee by the university focused solely on the Flint and Dearborn campuses said in a statement released today that he is “fully committed to addressing these issues, ensuring UM-Flint remains affordable, increasing the school’s enrollment, and supporting the excellent students we already serve so they are better positioned to earn a degree and succeed as proud University of Michigan alumni.”
As for 1U’s claims that the regent has been dodging their calls, Behm said that he has “been pleased with the many productive conversations (he’s) had with students and faculty on these issues.”
“My fellow regents and I look forward to continuing this dialogue,” Behm added.
Egypt Otis, a political science student, also spoke at the rally. Otis falls into a broad category of “nontraditional students,” which can mean the students attends school part-time, or is a full-time worker or parent. UM-Flint’s institutional analysis website which said 30 percent of its undergraduates in the Fall of 2019 were non-traditional students.
As she described her latest experience with the university, which she said initially denied her financial aid for her last two semesters at UM-Flint, Otis said “after I left that building, I’d seen how colleges are nothing more than a capitalist corporation (rather) than an educational institution who invests in its students.”
Sam Uptmor, UM-Flint’s current Student Government president, said that the 1U coalition is important for UM-Flint.
“We’re fighting for equity across the board. There are evident disparities between the campuses and Flint deserves more … there is so much potential but we just don’t have the resources to get to where we need to be. The resources are available but they’re (regents) are just kind of withholding,” Uptmor said.
According to Uptmor, the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for equity across campuses and exacerbated the existing disparities between them. “With how the climate is, 1U is more important than it ever has been. In the world that we’re living in, equity is extremely important and everything is starting to bubble up, and it’s good to see.”
Others in attendance included Flint community members and UM-Flint professors and alumni who all cheered at the speaker’s calls to action and booed at the many disparities mentioned.
Many fell silent during Otis’s speech when she asked, “Why does U of M create additional barriers to prevent me and people like me to attain this piece of paper? Why do they underfund this university which has more students in need than Ann Arbor?”