Michigamua Update

I recently learned that well known University of Michigan campus activist Sam Woll has joined Michigamua, an organization I have spent time publishing information about on my website. To complicate matters, we have a personal relationship and I consider her a friend. I have decided I must publish it — as I publish all names — and have invited her to submit a statement to go with this informaiton. That statement is below.

> See my main Michigamua page
> Michigamua Posts from 8/04-6/05
> All other mentions of Michigamua (excluding above time period)

I published a few names last summer: Lisa Yang, Dana Baki, Antonina Nina Catalfio, Jaya Soni, Neal Pancholi. To add to that list now in addition to Sam is Brian Hull.

Sam will do doubt complain that aligning her photo with the 1966 photo of the all white male class in faux headresses is unfair. I would argue not: Michigamua has racked up a history so extreme and blatantly racist they cannot be reformed in the way Sam thinks it can be.

I’m extremely disappointed in her, as I am in every “leader” who believes Michigamua is a benevolent force. I believe it is a hurtful remnant of an era of accepted institutionalized racism and bastion of elitism in privilege on a campus which I would hope to make more democratic.

Here is her statement:

Personal Statement from Sam for use on Goodspeedupdate.com:

* Please publish this statement verbatim. You do not have my permission to publish any excerpt from the following statement and may only use it in its entirety. Thank you *

Yes, I am a member of Michigamua. I joined this organization in order to work with other leaders on campus to serve the University. I know that my membership may be a surprise to many people. However, I saw potential to continue to drive positive changes within Michigamua in order to better serve campus and truly represent a diverse group of leaders committed to
making the University a better place. Additionally, I acknowledge and recognize the organization’s past including the painful parts of its history.

I hope that the fact that I am in Michigamua will not lead you to question the sincerity of any of my past and future involvements on campus. Anyone who knows me and my passionate commitment to working for social justice knows that I would never be a part of organization that would betray these principles. I am still proud to be a capital “F” Feminist, Jew, Democrat,
strong supporter of Affirmative Action and member of the student coalition to cut the University’s contracts with Coca-Cola corporation.

Although there are still many misconceptions about Michigamua, we are diligently working on ways to communicate recent changes and efforts to the larger University community. My intention in this statement is to let you know that I am committed to both Michigamua and other organizations that I have always been committed to on campus. This was not an easy
decision for me and it took meticulous discretion. I invite those who wish to further understand my decision to email me at swoll (at) umich.edu. Please include a phone number if you so choose and I will do my best to speak with you in person. Thank you.

When people like Sam join I feel as if I have failed to adaquetly explain the true history and impact of the organization. The story is not without a bright spot, however — the decisions to join made by Sam, Jaya, Neal and others have forced their respective organizations to learn about and deal proactively with the organization. Furthermore, there is a documentary being made about the organization and I am optimistic the Daily will continue to cover the controversies under their new leadership.

Author: Rob Goodspeed

Comments

  1. Not the first time a white “Feminist” has decided that their alliance with power structures means more than their principles — especially when the principles in question have to do with racial issues. This young woman joins the proud ranks of “feminists” such as Susan B. Anthony and Margaret Sanger who alligned themselves with racist movements and rhetoric in a desparate attempt to influence a larger amount of the public.

  2. Ok, whatever else may have happened in the past the organization is clearly not racist now. I am not quite sure why its use of a particular motif is evil (then again, i also don’t see a problme with Florida State using the Seminole as a mascott).

    More to the point – I think Rob’s real problem with Guama isn’t that they are racist, but that they are elitist. And frankly – i don’t have a problem with that. At least Guama seems to be elitist on merit not last name, or parental money – which in my book is a step up from most of the instituions that exist in this country. D

  3. What the fuck, Sam? This is like saying you’re going to work for Coca-Cola so you can help them get better!

    You want to “work with other leaders on campus to serve the University”? How does Gamua do that exactly? Can you explain how you are going to “drive positive changes within Michigamua in order to better serve campus”? Or are these answers a secret?

    Michigamua should die because of its history, despite whatever it’s supposedly doing now that you say is positive.

    If Gamua members don’t understand WHY people are hurt by the group’s existance they should at least be compassionate enough to realize simply that their actions are causing human pain and this should be reason enough to stop.

  4. I heard about this before it came out today.. and the same person who let me know that Sam was in Gamua also indicated that Jason Mironov accepted his Gamua tap.. As long as it’s all coming out in the open, perhaps someone could do research on that…?

  5. “Ok, whatever else may have happened in the past the organization is clearly not racist now. I am not quite sure why its use of a particular motif is evil (then again, i also don’t see a problme with Florida State using the Seminole as a mascott).” -dlivshiz

    and i’m sure d-liv would have no problem if a university had a team called the “fighting jewish bankers” with a mascot complete with a hooked nose and fresh blood on his hands from killing the babies of the innocent…

    if he doesn’t have a problem with that than he is a bigot…if he does have a problem with that but not when it is done to native americans, then he is a bigot…

    catch-22,
    ari p.

  6. Ari –

    I am not sure I find the two situations similar. One is based on stereotypes, the other is based on immitatino of cultural traditions. IF the Jews had a cultural tradition of being bankers we can talk, but thats not in fact the case. Maybe I am missing something about Guama – but i don’t see them, and have never heard of them, refering to NA as noble savages, or anything of the like.

    To the comment about Coke – the analogy above is simply flawed. If Sam went to wrok for coke in a low/mid level job -then yes, your analysis is correct. If she goes into Coke as CFO/CEO/General Counsel – yeah – she can have a HUGE impact on how coke behaves – alot bigger then a few college students. and guama, by its very nature is smaller and therefore, much easier to change.

    D

  7. well, livshiz goes and confirms my suspicisoun…

    as for the coke commmetn, livshiz is simply flawed…the coke campaign is larger than “just a few college students,” but he can believe whatever he wants…

    but that if she did become cfo/ceo, yeah she could influence the company, that would also mean compromising her beliefs in human rights, so joining guama would mean comprismising social justice, anti-racism, and democracy…

    i understand that many people around her support racism, i’m just glad at least ONE person has the balls to admit it…

    burn the nazis,
    ari p.

  8. the point is, what livshiz doesn’t get here, not that one couldn’t join the organization of the adversery and have an affect…they could, but what would that mean for them??? let me put it this way, would livshiz join the palestine solidarity movement and try to be its head in order influence it to be more pro-israel???

    this is justice,
    ari p.

  9. No i wouldn’t. i think the organizatino is useless. I don’t think the same of coke. nor guama.

    as for Coke and its big movement – ari – i want you to ponder something for me. A few years ago SOLE (a group of studnet activists) fought against sweatships. I was somewaht involved in this movement – so everything i say now appliees to me as well.

    There was a sweatshop in bangladesh, that made apparel. In it, young girls worked long hours, for low pay. So rich, student activitists, protested this sweatshop after it was discoverd. In responce, the compnay who owned the sweatshop closed it down – and a yera later, researchers found, that almost every little girl who had worked at that sweatshop was working as a prostitute (mind you , many of these girls were not young enough to have a learners permit to drive) or had been sold of into white slavery. And now i ask – we stoped that sweatshop, we helped United and american unions, did we help the people in bangladesh? And here, the answer is no.

    As students we didn’t even consider this situation. Just a thought about students thinking they no more then all others.

  10. the psm was just for arguement…so would you join hamas (influential in pstine to say the least) or the adc or the cair or whatever…or are you saying that ANY arab/muslim organization is useless by virtue of the fact that it has arab or muslim interests?

    that’s a great story about the sweatshop in bagladesh…to take you out of your bubble of smugness, news flash, i’ve heard it before…though you and i see different morals…you moral is thus, sweatshops are good…mine is that this only strenthen the points many activists are saying about the delevolping world…either you work to the bone in a sweatshop for a rich man or you a sex slave for a rich man…these are fundamental things that need to change…

    which is why, for coke, it shines a light on a LARGER ISSUE…that corporations in colombia exploit the paramilitaries and the right wing government and the us support thereof in order to assisinate labor leaders…that is the problem, not simply coke…much like exploitation in asia is the problem, not just one sweatshop…

    i think you need to think about the bigger picture here…you tend to focus on the very small things, and not put them into any kind of context…

    to the batmobile,
    ari p.

  11. Ari –

    First of all, thats not my conclusion out of the bangladhes. My conclusion is that students are particualrly badly equipped to deal with this stuff. They don’t appreciate the nuances that these situation require, nor do they know enough. They think they do, but they have no clue.

    These issues are complicated – and largely depends on how you see the constituences. Corporations are not responsible to the worl dat large, they are responsible to shareholders – which are, btw, mostly retirment funds for blue collar workers – and what you’re doing is trying to put them in a bind.

    Its great to talk about context – becuase you speak in generalities, and appeal to morality. Thats the problem. You don’t solve problems by talking about generaliteis, you solve them by looking at them specifically, one by one, by one and finding a way to help everyone. and its the inability to do that – that results in the Bagladesh case. ONe of the things that shocked me – is that it was so uttrerly predictable – the government of US and Bangladehs warned about it, the corporation who owned the seweatshop warneda bout it. academics warneda bou tit. and the students with their insensent pressure (drivin by United which could give a fuck less about what happens to hte poeple in Bangladesh, as long as thier union members keep their jobs) forgot to mention it.

    I’m not saying that we should leave sweatshops in place, but rather that studnets shouldn’t be driving the solutiosn – cause they don’t fully apprecieate the consequences of their actions.

    As for Coke -you konw what – when i see this comming out fo someone other then far left wing activists and students – like for exmaples respectabl3e NGOs to fully investigate it. IN the meantime, i wonder what happens to the peopel in COlumbia, if Coke picks up and moves?

  12. i think its very fatalistic of you to discount all student activists (of which you could count yourself, being once a student and an activist of many causes) are just dumb, and that all the worlds programs should only be addressed with white guys in suits and white suv’s with (this ngo) written on the side…

    coke picks up and leaves??? not likely, what i hope happens is that once pressure is put on companies like coke, it will will turn perhaps the us or at the very least the oas to pressure the colombia government to finally address the fact that it is one of the most deadliest places for union activsts…now, i know you don’t like unions, but i can hardly see how you would support terrorist gangs going aroudn killing people…

    piece now,
    ari p.

  13. Ari – my dear – i do not support terrorsit gangs going around and killing people. I am, however, not sure i trust the source of all of this inofrmation – as it is comming out of Unions, not objective third parties.

    Two – I agree that the government of Columbia needs to improve it shunman rights record- i just nto sure that its possible for a bunch of spoield rich white kids to force it to do so. Now, you wanna put OAS on notice – sweet – file reports, get some action. Focus on Columbia not on coke.

    Incidently, i hope you realize, that what happens when poeple cancer Coke contracts – their stock drops, and this hurts people about to retire, more so then it will hurt the directors of Coke. Moreover, I GUARANTEE that Coke will take a look at cost of allowing a nunion, versus movign – and WILL move somewhere – so as to reduce number of workers in COlumbia.

    As for studnet activists – those who aim to educate the student body, so as to use public opinion 30 years later – may be okay. They aren’t asking for suddent changes that can impact people’as lives. However, when you have SOLE askign for contracts to be voided – that is what results in things like Bangaldehs. Young kids, not botehring to think through their actinos. I was one of tehm.

    As for white men, and white SUV’s – thats also not the way. But i think its educated people (whether white, or black) who have had the time to do the reserach, and consider all options that will be more effective and helpful in hte long run then a bunch of 18 year olds who are brainwashed by one uinon. D

  14. sorry to break it to you, dave, but coke doesn’t deny that labor leaders have been killed on their facilities…what they do challenge, is culpability…while it is clear that managers from factories are working with the terrorist groups, coca-cola claims that doesn’t put blame on the corporation itself…sorry, fella…

    and yes, i do realize, perhaps much, MUCH more than you do, what the cost of cokes’ stock will do to families…as the price of cokes’ stock affects my family, and those of many of my friend’s back in altanta…i happen to know much more about that than you do, boy…by the way, coke’s stock values WILL fall, mainly for reasons unrelated to colombia, but that’s another story…

    focus on colombia you say? i agree, yet corporate involvement excerabates the problem, coke especially, and thus, it cannot be taken out of the occasion…and hopefully, focusing on coke leads to a focus on colombia…start small, get big…you see?

    and all you’re talk about filing a report with the oas…this is just your white supremist mindset (by white supremist, i don’t mean like kkk, i mean like play by my white, upperclass rules you peasant)…unions, and the symothizers have to resort to these types of means often, because the system is rigged against them…think if i said, israel shouldn’t use force, they should just use the un…well, the un is biased against israel, as we know…a colombian judge ruled in favor of the government, but listen, mate, its a colombia judge, not exactly fair…please seee the article below for more…

    as for your opposition to student activists…you sound like you have a bigger problem with student activists than their actually politics…you don’t like the fact that they are rich and white, but in america, that tends to be who gets to go to college…while that kid might have alterier motives, if a kid from bloomfield is raising awareness about us sponsered terrorism in latin america, if everyone else is silent, i have no problem…

    livshiz, for this reason, you shouldn’t support israel activism on campus, because it is “a complicated issue”…but perhaps you have a double standard when it comes to israel…

    oh, and here’s an article about the coke stuff, but i hear the author is a real whole :o)

    http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article.jsp?id=3&debateId=33&articleId=2790

    okay, this is my last post on the subject as i have a murder case to cover…if you want to speak further, hit the email…this post is about gauma, and we are way off subject…

    order in the court,
    ari p.

  15. Rob,
    thanks for all of your support with your coverage of gamua. it’s good to know that even though you’ve graduated, these issues remain on your radar. it’s unfortunate that people who consider themselves progressive don’t understand that the funding from this org is coming from alum who don’t want to change tradition. i’m all for change from within… but not when it’s not feasible.

  16. 1) If any of you really have the best interest of social justice and campus issues, why don’t you redirect all this energy into joining a community service organization or the Student Assembly…As an active member of the community I would love to see half of you as passionate about expensive books, no parking, and an anti student city council.
    2) Ya’ll just hatin cuz you ain’t in it.

  17. Actually, “S.”, a lot of the people who posted above ARE quite involved on this campus. I do not see this as a waste of time because breaking down the power of Michigamua with its racist legacy is anti-oppression work in itself. Furthermore, joining in solidarity against it is making our community stronger–perhaps even beyond this university.

    Note on the “Michigamua Exposed” art show today: We do not intend this event to overshadow or replace the annual Michigamua awareness raising event initiated by the Native American Student Association and others. It was organized by 4 of us who are in a human rights activist art class for our final project.

  18. What exactly is the racist power of this group that is so worth fighting against? In four years at the university, I never once felt moved by an act, racist or otherwise, on the part of Michigamua or its membership.

    That isn’t to say that the group is without sin. Few groups with a history stretching past the civil rights movement are. To accept the conclusion that Gamua is presently a racist, malevolent group because of its racist, malevolent past is to accept that any number of groups (a few campus fraternities and a few dozen state legislatures come to mind) are also inflexibly racist and/or sexist.

    Personally, I find that conclusion absurd – but not all that surprising given the company. There’s a familiarity to this thread – familiar names and familiar ideas who have, in the past, been more than willing to brand those who deviate even slightly from the “true” progressive path as sellouts (or worse).

    Sam Woll joined Michigamua? Throw her under the bus. Next year, do it again! Four or five more good people who made honest, progressive choices will have their names thrown to the wolves on Goodspeed Update.

    These are not the actions of someone interested in progressivism, and they are certainly not the acts of someone interested of “making our community stronger.” (As if attacking someone like Sam Woll could ever possibly make a community stronger) No, these are the deeds of Michigan Activists: Timelessly vacuous, forever intolerant, every liberal for him/herself. And if they resist, just call em a racist.

    Solidarity!
    Daniel Adams

  19. thanks to dan adams for lending his voice of reason to the debate. wow, are you guys all really here to talk about how michigamua is one of the university’s biggest threats? or are you here just to contribute to the public vilification of a few individuals?

    i’m not here to discuss michigamua at length. i acknowledge the organization has a dubious past, but i don’t see the racism coming through these days. the hoopla over this issue (specifically the “michigamua exposed” exhibition) simply illustrates how fractured, ineffectual and irrelevant the UM left has become. there are 1001 issues that are far more significant, yet you all pursue this one out of naive political correctness. i agree that “secret” organizations do not properly serve the university at large, but do you all really think that this michigamua deserves this much of your attention in the grand scheme of things?

    rob posted about sam because that’s what he does; he’s a good friend and exceptional investigative journalist bound to his own precedent and commitment to reporting on this issue. in a way, he was obligated to write on the topic, and i respect this. what i do not appreciate are the so-called “activists” — some of you former friends and acquaintances of the new members — trying to tell us that this all had to be made into a public spectacle. if you fanned the fire with your testimonials, you’re not a progessive, you’re a bloody fool.

    sam woll and jaya soni are dear friends of mine — strong women with unimpeachable social consciences and an unquestionable motives when it comes to instituting social change. they are twice the “activisits” any of you are. the fact that some of you would sever ties with these individuals solely based on their choice to join michigamua is disgusting — you guys are children, nothing more. i pose this to you: what do any of you know of racism? because i can speak at length about the topic, and i don’t find michigamua a threat in any way.

    it’s sad that many of you think this is the cause that is most worthy of your energy, because this is like PETA holding an anti-fur rally in the wake of the Rwandan genocide.

    grow up so you can perceive the real threats.

  20. This comment was posted by Hugo (hugoshi@umich.edu) but I accidentially deleted it:

    “What good can come out of people joining michigauma? The name “michigauma” is a result of cultural appropriation, even if current traditions and ceremonies are no longer racist, the strength of michigauma lies in it’s alumni ties – do you really think those alumni aren’t racist?

    Why are we talking about these people like innocent victims. It’s not like they had to join michigauma. And I don’t think they have a right to without facing public scrutiny. It was a choice and they new what would happen as a result.

    Yes the left is fractured, that campus progressives would join michigauma is a betrayal towards all students of color. Many students of color don’t feel comfortable working with people in an organization with this racist history and you can’t ask us to do that.”

  21. Thank you to Neal, one of the few people with some sense commenting here.

    I wish, just for once, all you UM students would search out the facts for yourself before jumping on the bandwagon with the loudest driver. The organizations that Goodspeed has, for whatever reason, brought to a forum such as this have a purpose and do some amount of good for this campus. The past is the past, let it stay there. The members of today’s Michigauma, Phoenix, Vulcans or any other secret society on campus can no more make up for what their predecessors did then can the descendants of slave traders make up for their ancestors.

    Goodspeed talks about shedding light on the disease that is the secret society. He talks about stamping out racism and elitism. What he doesn’t look at are the things these organizations have done for the students and for the University as a whole. These organizations, due to their “elitist” member base, have ties to every part of the campus and their small size allows them to accomplish things that larger organizations would not and could not for various reasons.

    For all you who have “severed ties” with people who you now know to be secret society members, grow up. If you were the person’s friend to begin with you would have sat down with that person and discussed your point of view.

    To Sam, Jaya and all the other who have lost friends due to your acceptance into Michigauma, I’m sorry. It’s a shame people have to be so blind and shallow.

  22. I was listening to the radio tonight and I heard the debate on Michigamua. My friend who was in Michigamua said they merged with Phoenix and they now take on the Phoenix name. Hope that helps!

  23. Pingback: The Goodspeed Update » Michigamua In the News

  24. Ok. I feel compelled to comment. The issue with Michigamua has become quite unclear over the years, so I will bring it back to the basics. As a member of the Students of Color Coalition, I can offer my perspective on why Michigamua was an issue for us on campus, and not “the greatest threat at the University”. Our goal was to bring forth the precise disregard for culture that the Florida and other sport team mascots represent. Michigamua has operated with such disregard and internalized racism for years. MADHU hit the nail on the head, “the funding from this org is coming from alum who dont want to change tradition”… Even more precise, the alumni roster of Michigamua is quite elite and they have more financial backing than the SCC could have ever dreamed of.

    On a personal note, I also stand to defend many of the attacks on the SCC. Each and every member of that group participated in the protest at great risk and large financial and academic sacrifices. Our motivations were clear- we were trying to end discrimination, institutionalized racism, marginalization, and disparate treatment and practices by University officials and policies. We had specific demands that were interrelated to this theme. Finally, the most important fact remains that the SCC attempted to bring to light the complete and total disregard for Native culture that was evidenced by Michigamua and the University’s relationship with the organization.

    I could write about this forever, but I will restrain myself. I am always open to dialogue about this and other issues related to students of color and the University of Michigan for those of you who wish to pursue this further.

  25. Are you actually telling me that spending 37 days in the tower while missing class and risking financial certainty is a smart move? I’m sorry, what is your first goal as a student, to get an education…and you risked failing a class and wasting money for a cause…

    You parents must be proud…

  26. Actually my parents are proud. Thanks for asking. I see you have no sense of community responsibility and that is fine. But for me, the risks were worth it.

  27. Rob, thank you for opening this debate. These things need to be said. If we keep talking we may be able to keep from hurting one another. I will contribute in the best way I can:
    I’m an alum from the B-school who grew up on a reservation called the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in the UP. Ojibwa I am or Anishnabe as we call ourselves. As long as I can remember I wanted to be a wolverine. I came to the U as a freshman in the fall of 1999. I heard all about Michagamua. I heard the drumming in the tower. I was taught to play off whites making fun of Indians for what it really is… an expression of ignorance, jealousy and shame. It is our responsiblity to help with the ignorance part, and maybe we arent doing a very good job.
    The members of the SCC chose to place thier responsiblity as people ahead of thier responsibilty as students. I cannot express my graditude enough to them. I got a chance to see what was in that tower and could not play it off… this was no dumb looking mascott or tomahawk chop at a baseball game. Lets just say I didnt see much of the jealousy and shame I was expecting. I did feel shame though, at being a wolverine and maybe some at not living up to my responsibility to educate people.
    Im wavering from my point though (which appears to be what these pages are for…) among all this evidence of Michigamua’s breach of the 1989 contract, I found thier mandate. Perhaps one of the current members can correct me if I am wrong but I seem to recall it saying something like ” to uphold the excellence of the University of Michigan through service and fellowship.” Maybe I am way off, but I know it didnt say anything about smoking out a ceremonial pipe like it was a bong (a picture labeled 1996) or doing god knows what with what looked to me like an authentic cradle board. In the meetings that followed I said these words to a representative from Michagamua and was told that the tape was played at an alumni meeting, if you do not deny the power of diversity and you believe that Natives make a valuable contribution to this campus, then continuing to exist as you are is a direct contradiction to your mandate. They are dissuading natives from wanting to come to the U. It is hard enough comming to planet Ann Arbor from the rez without the same organization in the picture above making us feel weirder than we already do. I KNOW there are good people among the ranks of Michagamua, but please do not be fooled into believing that you have the power to make any kind of change. Even if you get your generation and the 10 generations after you to favor a name change, you will still be vastly outnumbered by the “buffalo calves”, “flip em backs” and “squaw teasers”. (I am sorry, i know that was a cheap shot, but I gotta hand it to them that one is blatently miserably racist and funny). I do want them to change thier name, and maybe someday they will and maybe someday they really can seperate themselves from thier past ( I do like that Phoenix name from above, let me know what the “old wolves” think of that one) Until they do, do not delude yourselves into believing you have a voice in the organization in your pursuit of furthering your own ends by tapping thier extensive and powerful alumni network (it would be a powerful temptation even to me, ill admit) The best way that you can force this organization to truly seperate from its past is to continue being the best and brightest and DENY them your membership. Maybe if they have to start settling for fourth and fifth best, the “old wolves” will realize that this is not the legacy they want to leave.
    As it stands, as much as it pains me, I will be supporting the boycott (as much as it pains me, there are better places for young natives to get thier undergraduate education, I can show you what im talking about if you email me) and the law suit, the existance of the “wigwam” shows that both gamua and the U broke thier word, are they above the law?
    Damm, I rambled on, there goes my lunch break. Anyway, please try to remember who it was that donated the land that your beloved university was built on.
    I am pulling for you, we are all in this together
    -Andy Chosa

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