The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
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dents were "risking arrest" to
demand in-state rates for Michi-
gan's undocumented residents.
At about $12,000 per year, in-
state tuition is nearly $28,000 less
than out-of-state rates.
One of the protestors, Mari-
sol Ramos, a Public Policy and
Education graduate student, said
although previous protests were
successful in making the issue
salient, they were not able to
achieve tangible action withinthe
"It's our first opportunity for
the more confrontational tactic,"
Ramo said. "We're hoping this
action creates a sense of urgen-
cy in the same way this issue is
urgent to undocumented immi-
grants living in the state and
across the country."
Ramos was later arrested.
Members of the University's
Coalition for Tuition Equality
participated in the event to sup-
port One Michigan, although the
two groups are not affiliated. The
event occurred as administra-
tors continue to discuss possible
changes to University residency
University Police spokeswom-
an Diane Brown said the UMPD
dispatch center received several
calls at about 6:28 p.m. - includ-
ing one from a University bus
driver - after the students went
into the street.
"Several chose to comply, and
these eight got arrested," Brown
said. "They were very cooperative
- they were arrested, brought
to our office, processed and
Brown said charges against the
students won't be clear until pros-
ecutors review the case, but could
include disorderly conduct, dis-
obeying a police officer or imped-
ing traffic. When asked whether
prosecutors could choose to dis-
miss the case, she said it's "pos-
sible, but hard to say," noting that
the students were clearly disobey-
ing the law.
"They're making a statement,
they get the consequences,"
Brown could not speak to
whether the students could face
consequences from the office of
Student Conflict Resolution, the
Office of the Dean of Students or
any other non-law-enforcement
disciplinary agency, but said
UMPD does not serve as a com-
plainant to those units.
Brown said today's protest
will not likely affect security at
the April 18 University Board of
Regents meeting, as a security
plan has already been put in place,
despite reports that groups will
demonstrate at that meeting.
The most recent large-scale
arrest of student protesters
occurred in 2007, when 12 stu-
dents were arrested for refusing
to leave the office of University
President Mary Sue Coleman.
The students wanted Coleman
to implement stricter labor
standards for companies that
apparel. Similar to today, stu-
dents were released that night
after being processed at DPS
Prior to the event, Mersol-Barg
said CTE is "humbled" to "stand
in solidarity" with One Michigan,
as echoed in a statement from
CTE in support of the nonviolent
Before taking to the streets,
three local youth said they were
unable to attend the University
due to the tuition policy shared
their stories to inspire the crowd
before the march.
Javier Contreras, a senior
at Skyline High School in Ann
Arbor, was admitted to the Uni-
versity but remains unsure if he
can attend due to the high cost as
an undocumented student. Con-
treras was born in Mexico, but
has lived in the city since he was
four years old.
"It astonishes me that this so-
called prestigious institute refus-
es to give some of the great minds
of the future a chance to succeed,"
Contreras said. "The time is now
for the University of Michigan to
pass tuition equality."
As an undocumented resi-
dent of Michigan, Contreras was
unable to go to Europe with his
high school or to get a driver's
license. Upon acceptance to the
University, Contreras said his
excitement immediately dwin-
dled upon realizing he wouldn't
be able to afford tuition.
University spokeswoman Kelly
Cunningham said the protesters'
approach will not likely impede
administrator's discussions with
"The University absolutely
respects the rights to protest and
express their views," Cunning-
After the speakers shared their
stories, the protesters marched
to President Coleman's house on
South University Avenue, shout-
ing, "Education not segregation."
When protesters moved to the
intersection of State Street and
South University Avenue, imme-
diately clogging traffic, horns
blared and drivers yelled out car
windows. Some drivers supported
the protest, but yelled for them to
As she put her car in park, a
driver stalled by the protest said
she wasn't in a rush.
"I'm a little bit frustrated;
I totally support what they're
doing," she said. "I just don't real-
ly know what to do right now. I
almost got out of my car and stood
The driver added thatit seemed
the protest signs which alluded to
the feeling of undocumented stu-
dents feeling "stuck," mirrored
the unpassable position of the
For about 10 minutes, the first
officers on the scene directed
traffic around the protestors. As
more University Police and Ann
Arbor Police approached the
group, protesters moved to the
sidewalk to avoid being arrested
while some - included the eight
arrested - sat in the street, wait-
ing to be handcuffed.
Before getting arrested, LSA
junior Ramiro Alvarez said he
believes the University should
address the tuition issue with
"I just think it's absurd," Alva-
rez said. "I'll risk whatever privi-
lege I have for their sake because
I have family who can't come here
because of this."
Social Work alum Marcha
Valabez held her spot on the cor-
ner of the white, decorated cloth
protesters sat on as officers went
around to each person asking if
they were sure they wanted to
go through with an arrest. As
each protester nodded, the officer
provided a pat on the shoulders
before clicking on handcuffs.
"I was nervous at first, I was
hesitant at first. But at the end of
the day, I'm not afraid, because
there are kids and families living
in fear everyday of getting taken
away," Valabez said.
Thirty seconds later, Valabez
was handcuffed and led to a near-
by squad car.
At UMPD headquarters, the
arrested individuals were greet-
ed by a crowd of proud support-
ers and representatives from the
National Lawyers Guild, who
observed the event to ensure that
the students' legal rights were
LSA senior Luz Meza said she
took the arrest for the thousands
of undocumented students who
are not able to attend the Univer-
sity and other institutions that
do not offer in-state tuition to
"I would do it again if I had to,"
Meza said. "Knowing that I'm
here at the University and thatI'm
able to lobby the University while
other students who don't have the
opportunity to come here, I feel
Meza was concerned about the
idea of having a criminal record,
but said it was outweighed by the
"I think we all worried about
that, but what is my career when
other people can't have one?"
LSA freshman Ryne Menhen-
nick was the lone first-year stu-
dent arrested in the group.
"I think that civil disobedience
is a respectable thing," Menhen-
nick said, adding that his parents
would probably be proud of his
Mersol-Barg, co-founder of the
Coalition for Tuition Equality and
a past Central Student Govern-
ment presidential candidate, said
he was proud to be arrested for an
issue he has fought for a signifi-
cant amount of his time here at
"I would do it again, because
until the University ends its dis-
criminatory policies towards
undocumented students, I can't
stand for them. I'm going to sit
down and protest for however
long it takes," Mersol-Barg said.
Mersol-Barg said the fact that
campus leaders like himself were
willing to be arrested in protest
of the University administration
should show the urgency of the
"Mary Sue Coleman is going to
have a lot hardertime sayingnonto
someone that I think people look
to - I have a lot of credibility in
the campus community," he said.
The Coalition for Tuition
Equality has been active since it
began in fall 2011, but hasn't taken
as radical of a step as One Michi-
gan did with Wednesday's disrup-
tive protest. Mersol-Barg said he
was impressed but not surprised
by One Michigan's initiative.
"They are across the nation
protesting these really obscene
policies," Mersol-Barg said. "I'm
just humbled by the fact that
they've organized here on cam-
pus and that I had an opportunity
to sit with them."
Alvarez, the next leader of the
Coalition for Queer People of
Color at the University, became a
U.S. citizen in 2009 and enrolled
in the University in 2010. For him,
the protest was personal.
"I was really lucky, in that year,
to get my papers together," Rome-
ro said. "But if that wasn't the
case, I wouldn't be here."
Alvarez hopes the protest sent
a message to the Board of Regents
and the people of the state of
Michigan about the urgency of
enacting tuition equality.
"If people are this pissed off
and this willing to wage the privi-
leges theyhave...it's finals time -
I'm busy, I have things to do, but
this is worth that time. I hope it
makes a statement," he said.
"I understand that the Univer-
sity is taking a big risk by allowing
undocumented students to come,
but this is an issue of human-
ity, and it's absolutely racist, dis-
criminatory, elitist and classist, to
not allow someone that's been in
Michigan almost their entire life
access to one of the most amazing
institutions in the world."
LSA junior Yonah Lieberman
- who is a former Daily colum-
nist - said today's protest should
show Coleman and the regents
that action needs to be taken.
"It shows how dramatic the
issue is, how urgent the issue is,"
Lieberman said, noting that if
the regents pass tuition equality
tomorrow, Contreras - the Sky-
line High School senior- would
be able to attend the University.
"Every single day that we don't
have tuition equality is a day that
students like Javier are forced to
pay out-of-state tuition and are
effectively barred from the Uni-
versity of Michigan," Lieberman
Though his arrest could be
noticed in future job interviews,
Lieberman said he's not con-
cerned about what problems the
arrest might cause.
"The struggles that I might
face for having this on my
record are nothing compared
to the struggles of the 29,000
undocumented students who
are desperate to come to this
University or their families,
who are everyday worried about
getting raided by (Immigrations
and Customs Enforcement),"
When asked what he would say
to Coleman, Lieberman said she
needs to publicly support tuition
"She knows that's the right thing
to do," Lieberman said. "She knows
that if she supported it, the regents
would support it. So I would tell
her that the time has come for you
to come out and tell us and tell the
world and tell these 29,000 undoc-
umented students that tuition
equality is the right thing to do, the
just thing to do and the thing that
the University should do to be the
Leaders and the Best."
ticipated in Wednesday's pro-
test organized by One Michigan
- a Detroit-based organization
led by undocumented youth .
Public Policy senior Kevin Mer-
sol-Barg - co-founder of CTE,
one of the arrested students
in the protests, a drafter of the
report to the Regents and cur-
rent Daily columnist - said the
event served as a precursor for
the protest to come.
"This will be a catalyst for
people's interest, people's
willingness to put them-
selves out there in solidarity
with undocumented students
tomorrow," Mersol-Barg said.
"Seeing the inspiring actions
today, I think they'll come
even more so than they other-
Jose Franco, the event orga-
nizer for One Michigan, said
he applauds CTE's efforts to
persuade the regents chang-
ing University policy. While
their protests have not result-
ed in a response, Franco said
he hopes this one will help
"We've been hearing that
there's possibly a vote tomorrow
on that policy change, so we're
trying to use this to pressure
the University to change their
stance," Franco said.
During his Twitter Town
Hall Wednesday night, Regent
Mark Bernstein (D-Ann Arbor)
praised this protesters.
"UMich has long tradition
of student activism. Part of our
history/culture. Proud of this
engagement," Bernstein tweet-
Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 7A
In an interview with The
Michigan Daily after the Town
Hall, Bernstein, who has pre-
viously expressed support for
tuition equality, declined to
comment on the possibility of
the issue surfacing at the meet-
"This is a matter of great
urgency," Bernstein said. "This
affects students and their fami-
lies in a profound way, and every
day that we don't address this is
another day we miss the oppor-
tunity to attract the best stu-
dents in the state."
Before LSA sophomore
Ramiro Alvarez was arrested in
yesterday's protests, he said he
would be attending the meeting,
"Hopefully I'll be at the meet-
ing if I don't spend too much
time in jail."
Protestors stage a sit-in for tuition equality at the intersection of State Street and South University Avenue.
LEFT Students lay a bannerfor the sit-in during Wednesday's protest for tuition equality. RIGHT Protestersstand with Skyline
High Student Javier Contreras as he addresses the crowd. BOTTOM Students protest in front of the Michigan Union.
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