A University of Michigan graduate student who says he began kneeling at the university’s diag as a sign of protest at 7 a.m. Monday says he plans to continue for 24 hours.
As of 8:30p Monday evening, Dana Greene Jr. was still kneeling at the diag.
UPDATE: In a phone interview, Greene says he got up from his protest around 3:30am because he was physically exhausted. He says UM President Mark Schlissel called him during the day, and Greene plans to meet with Schlissel on Wednesday.
Dressed in a T-shirt, long pants and knee pads, Dana Greene Jr. was surround by a crowd of roughly 100 supporters on the diag, the center of campus at the University of Michigan.
After racist graffiti was found on dorm room doors and racist flyers were scattered throughout campus, Greene said he woke up feeling unsafe. He wrote a letter to University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel asking the administration to act to make the school a more welcoming place for minority students. He says he doesn’t know what specific steps he wants the administration to take, but he wants the problems to be taken seriously.
“I’m calling on the University of Michigan to take active steps to address our campus climate. Beyond that I also want people across the country to start thinking,” Greene said. “Why do [you think] people feel like they have to do this?”
The demonstration was peaceful, and supporters sat or kneeled near Greene. Some sat on the inlaid brick of the diag, on yoga mats or nearby benches. A man near Greene stood up with a bull horn to announce there was bottled water and snacks.
Greene said he would continue kneeling until 7 a.m. Tuesday, a complete 24 hours.
Greene said he was inspired to kneel by the dozens of NFL players who took a knee during the national anthem this past Sunday.
Some of Greene’s supporters also knelt for several hours.
Esha Biswas, a supporter of Greene’s protest, said the university should more boldly advocate on behalf of African-American and minority students to promote a safe, inclusive and diverse campus.
“At U of M there’s kind of this elitist mentality like we’re the leaders and the best,” Biswas said. “Although sure school pride is great, it’s also important to acknowledge that we’re not may be the leaders and the best in a lot of different ways. We have a lot of progress to make.”
Another supporter, Malini Dasgupta, suggests the university administration should more aggressively promote African-American student enrollment, other minority student enrollment, and economic diversity within the student body. She says as a high school student, she was attracted to the value the University of Michigan seemed to place on diversity. As a Wolverine, she says she’s been disappointed in the unexpectedly low number of minority students in her classes.
“Diversity is a false claim about the university and I think that’s part of what’s going on here,” Dasgupta said.
University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel said in a statement: “I share with many the belief that our institution and our nation do not always live up to our highest ideals, including the equal rights we hold dear. To me, the American flag represents many things, including those very rights.”
Schlissel is currently away from campus. His statement said he supports Greene’s right to peaceful protest and plans to meet with him when Schlissel returns.