The University of Michigan-Dearborn is apologizing for creating online student “cafes” — one for white people and another for people of color. The cafes were created with the intention to promote discussions about race and diversity. Despite this, social media users are accusing the University of Michigan of creating “segregation cafes.”
On Tuesday, the university held two virtual “cafe” events. One was advertised as a “non-POC Cafe” for non-people of color to “gather and discuss their experience as students on campus and as non-POC in the world.”
The other, called “BIPOC Cafe,” was intended for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. The university described it as a space for “marginalized racial/ethnic/cultural communities to gather and to relate with one another to discuss their experience as students on campus.”
The two events were both held on Zoom, hosted by UM Dearborn’s Center for Social Justice and Inclusion. National Review reports the discussions were planned to be held “bi-monthly” to provide a virtual space for students amid the pandemic.
As news of the events spread past the campus community, many people took issue. On social media, people referred to the university’s events as “segregation cafes.” Others found fault in intentionally separating groups and not providing a space to share opinions and perspectives from different backgrounds.
National Review dubbed the “Non-POC” forums as a “Whites-only virtual ‘cafe’ event.” The Post Millennial also equated the event as a “whites-only cafe in the name of equality.”
Abed A. Ayoub, legal and policy director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee shared the events on his Twitter. Ayoub tweeted, “I get the intention but this was not thought out and very lazy.
UM-Dearborn Responds to “Segregation Cafes” Criticism
In a statement released Wednesday, UM-Dearborn apologized for the events. They wrote, “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.”
Despite being marketed as events for different communities, UM-Dearborn said both events were open to all members of the campus community.