The University of Michigan Dearborn hosted a virtual discussion Tuesday that it dubbed the “non-POC cafe,” an event that appeared to welcome only white students and ignited criticism of the school for its decision to hold an apparently segregated event.
The Dearborn campus, one of the public university’s two regional campuses, described the virtual event as “a space for students that do not identify as persons of color to gather and to discuss their experience as students on campus and as non-POC in the world.”
The university also held another event for students of color, named the “BIPOC Cafe,” using the acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
The virtual discussion for students of color was described similarly, as “a space for student[s] from marginalized racial/ethnic/cultural communities to gather and to relate with one another and to discuss their experience as students on campus and as people of color in the world.”
The events, which occurred simultaneously at 2:00pm on Tuesday, were hosted on Zoom by UM Dearborn’s Center for Social Justice and Inclusion. They were scheduled to be held “bi-monthly, generally to occur on the 1st Tuesday of every month at 2:00pm and the 3rd Wednesday of every month at 7:00pm.” with dates and times “subject to change depending on feedback and demand.”
The university has since apologized for the manner in which the events were described and promoted by the school and said that both events were open to all members of the UM Dearborn campus community and “were never intended to be exclusive or exclusionary for individuals of a certain race.”
“University of Michigan-Dearborn sincerely regrets the terms used to describe the ‘cafe’ events. 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,” Beth Marmarelli, director of communications and marketing for UM Dearborn, said in a statement to National Review.
The events were intended “to allow students the opportunity to connect to process current events, share their experiences related to race, share knowledge and resources and brainstorm solutions,” Marmarelli said. “The original intent was to provide students from marginalized communities a space that allowed for them to exist freely without having to normalize their lives and experiences, while also providing students that do not identify as persons of color the opportunity to deepen their understanding of race and racism without harming or relying on students of color to educate them.”