The University of Michigan-Dearborn issued an apology for online cafes separated by race.
According to CBS News, UM-Dearborn announced two separate virtual events for students, one for White students and another for people of color. In its apologetic statement on Wednesday, the university near Detroit states the digital cafes were not made clear by the event’s promotion.
“UM-Dearborn sincerely regrets the terms used to describe the “cafe” events held on September 8. 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 statement reads.
Before the institution issued an apology, there was an online backlash against the Whites-only marketed event. Abed Ayoub, a graduate of UM-Dearborn and legal and policy director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, tells CBS News the university missed an opportunity.
“We know this is a mistake but hope they move forward,” he said to the news outlet.
Ayoub initially called for a boycott, sharing a flyer for the non-POC zoom event on Twitter before following up with the minority friendly online chat.
In its official apology, UM-Dearborn details how the events were intended to encourage inclusive behavior among the student body even as the coronavirus pandemic mandates remote events.
“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” the statement reads.
“As campus activities continue to operate in a predominantly remote capacity due to COVID-19, our Center for Social Justice and Inclusion has looked to develop virtual spaces that allow for these important conversations to continue.”
Vice-Chancellor Ken Kettenbeil says the events were one-time occasions, not an attempt to provide long-time spaces of physical segregation according to CBS News.
Although the events were advertised as safe-spaces for Non-POC and BIPOC respectively, the university claims all students were welcome to attend either roundtable.
“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,” the statement declares.
Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!