UMSI students offer messages of support and hope

In the aftermath of the contentious presidential election, students at the School of Information are standing up with messages of support and hope. They want fellow students, staff, administration and the Ann Arbor community to know that hateful speech and acts will not be tolerated. Instead, these passionate students are encouraging acts of unity against bigotry and hate.

Doctoral student Allan Martell organized a student gathering at the Rock on Washtenaw Avenue at the edge of campus after it was spray-painted with bigoted language. Their intent was to capture their peers and their families holding signs disavowing prejudice and divisiveness. Allan said, “I think that taking group pictures of messages of hope in places where there was once a hate message is a symbolic way of reclaiming space.” Nearly 20 doctoral students and their family members gathered together. With hand-painted signs saying, “Let love win” and “All are welcome here,” they presented a prominent reminder that the UMSI community is diverse, empathetic and kind-hearted.

Allan wants to proliferate positive news stories so that apathy doesn’t spread. He also encourages other groups to do the same. “My overall goal with this event was inviting the public, whoever saw our group picture, to do something similar in their neighborhoods. That way, in addition to the news reports of hate messages, we can eventually see reports of hopeful messages, too.”

The School of Information Master’s Association (SIMA) was inspired to action by an installation of New York artist Matthew Chavez. Based on his efforts to encourage messages of courage and optimism in a subway station, SIMA officers have designated a window in the grad student lounge as the "Unity Wall." In an email to the UMSI master’s students, SIMA vice president MacKenzie Dewitt explained why this display is important for the morale of the students and how it’s emblematic of our better nature as humans.

"For those who have an encouraging message, an expression of solidarity, or a funny joke that always lifts your spirits, grab a sticky note and add it to the wall. For those who need a quick pick-me-up or reminder of how much you are valued, go take a peek. Let's grow this thing into a salient affirmation of what we stand for and the respect and support we have for one another!”

"The values of UMSI have no room for acts of hate or intimidation,” said Judy Lawson, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “Our community stands in support of those who feel unsafe or marginalized. UMSI students have demonstrated strength and hope in the face of bigotry and hate, and for that I applaud them."

Photo Credit: Pei-Yao Hung

Posted November 17, 2016