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July 15, 1988 - Image 8

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1988-07-15

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Page 8

The Michigan Daily -

UCAR: 'U' orientation offends minorities

One of the original twelve de-
mands presented to the University
administration by the United
Coalition Against Racism was the
creation of a mandatory workshop
on racism during orientation for all
incoming students. The UCAR
students reasoned that this type of
workshop would serve several pur-
poses. All students would be made
aware of the stated policy of the
University regarding racist harass-
ment; students would know what
other students have done and what
they could do to fight racism on
campus; and the meager numbers of
incoming students of color would
experience a sense of physical and
mental security and safety because
of the anti-racist tone presented
during an otherwise alienating ori-
entation process.
The former president, Harold
Shapiro, made a verbal commit-

ment to the implementation of a
workshop. However, this agreement
was ignored and orientation went on
as usual. After several and discus-
sions between UCAR members and
University officials, the orientation
administration finally agreed (again)
to a proposal for a 15 minute dis-
cussion on racism and diversity to
be presented by one student
orientation leader and one UCAR
member. Although UCAR mem-
bers participated in the program and
attempted to conduct substantive
discussions in the short time allot-
ted, they were censored by the
directors of orientation and forced to
lead sessions with student orienta-
tion leaders who insisted on dis-
cussing the merits of having
"Chinese restaurants next door to
Mexican restaurants" as an example
of diversity.
In other words, a superficial dis-
cussion of "tolerating" people who
are different was substituted for a
legitimate discussion of how insti-
tutional racism impacts upon the

lives of people of color. Once again
the University made promises to
students, then took student demands
and substantially re-worked them to
fit into a schedule of cosmetic,
programs designed to rebuild the
tarnished "liberal" image of the
school. These actions demonstrated
a lack of commitment by orienta-
tion staff in dealing with the exis-
tence of racism on this campus.
It is now one year later. After
several meetings of a special Uni-
versity appointed task force on ori-
entation, which includesfew people
of color and virtually no students
active in peer education around is-
sues of racism, sexism, homopho-
bia and anti-Semitism, orientation
continues to minimally address the
issue of diversity and makes no ref-
erence to combatting racism. It has
hired an amateur theater group,
"Talk To Us," which presents skits
about situations in which first year
students might find themselves,
supposedly dealing with issues of

racism, sexism, homophobia and
religious persecution.
Yet both the form and content of
the plays are designed by people
who have not been politically ac-
tive around these issues. The end
result is that the subject matter is
trivialized, students are not in-
formed about campus resources for
help in the event of being harassed
or attacked, and the messages pre-
sented do not challenge any existing
stereotypes or racist attitudes
among students, but instead, further
alienate students of color.
For example, the skit on racism
addressed the problem as if it were
solely a matter of individual atti-
tudes, as opposed to a history of
systematic exclusion and marginal-
ization of people of color. The
scene consisted of a white room-
mate's apprehension at having a
Black roommate; when the white
roommate found out that the Black
roommate was an upper middle
class Bostonian, listened to the

Assault victim's pursuit of justice ignored

Continued from Page 7
report only to discourage my hopes for any action and to neglect to a)
tell me that an actual misdemeanor crime had been committed against
me, b) inform me that the Ann Arbor Police would be involved, c)
inform me of my rights as a victim, certainly disempowered me in a
much more destructive manner. I sought their help as a victim and was
victimized even further by their off-hand, unprofessional, and careless
Yes, being handled was humiliating, for it was proof that I was not a
human being to my attacker, but rather something less. But it is even
more humiliating to be asked by the Head of Conferencing of the Uni-
versity, in her first response to my report of being attacked, "What were
you doing in East Quad?" And it is even more humiliating to have that
same administrator, plus an Assistant Director of Housing, and the Di-
rector of Housing Security, ignore my repeated attempts to direct their
interests away from the explicit details of the attack and towards the
more pertinent facts of the mishandling of myself and of my complaints
by their staffs.
Yes, I was outraged when I was touched in a sexual manner by
someone unknown to me and nearly unseen by me. But I was even
more angered by the Director of the Camps of Champs' opinion that
events like the attack on me are good reasons to keep everyone except
those connected with the Camps out of East Quad when camp is in
session. I was even more angered by the Daily's reference to me as an
"alleged sexual assault victim," and I continue to be angered by the per-
vasive sentiment that since there was no witness, and since no
perpetrator has been found guilty of a crime in a court of law, that there
was no crime committed and that perhaps the whole event never even
Despite the sentiment that an unwitnessed, unprosecuted crime is no
crime at all, I was sexually assaulted on June 28, 1988, and I have little
hope for justice. Ironically, I would be better off if the attack on me had
been more violent; if I had received bruises, for example, or had my
clothes torn, or had my body violated more invasively.
It is objective fact, however, that the vast majority of sexual assaults
are not carried out by means of physical intimidation or of violence
which leaves behind cuts, bruises, or bullet wounds. Most sexual as-
sailants rely on their assured anonymity in a certain place, on the
ambiguity of a given situation, or on the victim's (soon to be betrayed)
trust in them to carry out their attacks. Until this fact is recognized,
victims will continue to be forced to go through channel after channel,

meeting brick walls at the end of each one to have their needs met and
the attacks on them taken seriously.
It is obviously very comfortable for the Camps and Housing staff and
administration to deny the deeper problems that are belied by the attack
I suffered: pervasive sexism in their organization, and potential for
more violent attacks on women and others in the future by the camper
who attacked me and by his peers.
The belief that what happened to me was a mere isolated incident,
and not a very serious one, is obviously what allows housing and
Camps Administrationsto continue to ignore my complaints. This atti-
tude would be laughable if it were not so dangerous in the face of years
of varied and increasingly more unpleasant assaults on members of the
community by Camps of Champs campers. Unless the Camps of
Champs begins to recognize that they have a responsibility for the ac-
tions and attitudes of the minors under their guardianship, those minors
will continue to assault people, for they have no worry of being pun-
So'I continue to pursue a response to my complaints, with several
objectives in mind. I desire that changes will be made in the messages
that Camps of Champs campers are given when they are under the tute-
lage of the Camps, and that the Camps staff and administration will be
better trained to handle complaints against campers. I wish that Security
officers at the University will be better instructed as to proper proce-
dure, and that they will face reprisal when they fail to follow procedure.
I hope, through my willingness to be openly identified as a sexual as-
sault survivor, to encourage recognition of the crime in all it's degrees,
for the withholding of names which is described as protection for vic-
tims more often turns out to be the means by which they are made to
feel as if they have done something shameful, as well as it encourages
the perception that there really is no victim.
Unfortunately, I also continue to be thwarted in these attempts. I
have so far been ignored by the people I have addressed my complaints
to, the Daily refuses to print my name in its news stories and insists
upon calling me an "alleged victim," and I see no evidence that there
has been any change in-the way the Camps are being administered. I
have no power whatsoever as long as my complaints and requests are
ignored, and I consider these continued efforts to disempower me to be
an assault on me just as surely as was the incident in East Quad two
weeks ago.
Editor's note: It is Daily policy to withhold the names of alleged
assault victims.

Talking Heads and had travelled ex-
tensively in Europe, they became
the best of friends. Instead of at-
tempting to really challenge racism
or racist stereotypes, the presenta-
tion developed an "ideal" Black per-
son, one who would be palatable to
both white orientees and white so-
ciety as a whole. The message sent
by the skit was that only certain
kinds of Black people are
"acceptable." The end result is the
exacerbation of existing stereotypes
as opposed to a real challenge of
them. In addition, the skit made
light of the struggle against racism
at the University, referring to the
protests of the last two years as
"that racism shit." In essence, in-
coming students of color's concerns
about racism at the University of
Michigan are ignored in order to
provide superficial comfort for ma-
jority students.
Other skits by "Talk To Us" were
equally offensive to the people who
are the targets of other types of dis-
crimination. The scenario which
supposedly addresses religious per-
secution deals with negative senti-
ments towards active Christians
who attend Bible study. There was
never any merstion of the anti-
Semitic graffiti throughout the
Graduate Library or the annual Nazi
rally each spring.
The skits on sexism and homo-
phobia were, unfortunately but not
surprisingly, very sexist and
homophobic. Throughout the skits
women were constantly referred to
as "girls" and gay men and lesbians
as "fags" and "dikes." Questions
from the orientees received confused
and uninformed answers from the
actors who had obviously never
dealt with these issues in an educa-
tional context.
This program is, however, con-
sistent with the University's PR
campaign of Celebrating Diversity-
not challenging Racism, Sexism,
Homophobia, or Anti-Semitism.
UCAR students and concerned ad-
ministrators in the Office of
Minority Affairs are currently en-
gaged in discussion/debate with
those people in charge of orienta-
tion programming - Bob Holmes,
Pam Horne, and Don Perigo - in
an effort to amelorate these prob-
lems and present a real workshop
on racism. The program as it stands
does more harm than good and it is
the antithesis of what concerned
Black students initially demanded.
We demand that the current "Talk to
Us" program be stopped immedi-
ately and replaced by a serious dis-
cussion led by students active in
peer education on the issues of
racism, sexism, homophobia and

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