Last week’s 1000-student protest on Michigan’s campus gained attention nationally thanks in large an already captive audience. The mishandling of a concussed Shane Morris in the September 27th loss to Minnesota intensified a negative light that had already been shining on Ann Arbor. Lost in the spectacle was the student discontent that pre-dated this season’s woes and certainly the Shane Morris incident. Those events represented the proverbial tipping point for a fan demographic that has for a significant amount of time felt marginalized. Now the students are hoping to take their protest to another level with a boycott.
The focus for the planned boycott of the kickoff of Saturday night’s match-up with Penn State, as laid out by second year law student Edward Mears in his boycott manifesto, are clear and pointed. The key excerpts are included below.
We have to capitalize now if we, the students of the University of Michigan, ever want to effect change. Brandon is vulnerable, and a boycott of kickoff at the Penn State game would be the best and most efficient form of protest available to us for several reasons:
1) The 'Under the Lights' brand is one of Brandon's proudest achievements. He points to the high attendance numbers at these games as evidence of his 'outstanding' relationship with students. This is the game that is most reflective of Brandon's influence and would underscore our intent to protest Brandon rather than the team or players. It would also make hollow his claims that his relationship with students is 'outstanding.'
2) The protest would be targeted at Brandon, and as long as we jump in front of the messaging before the protest, we can control the discourse in a way that fans, spectators, and most importantly - the student athletes - will know that our boycott is not about them but rather is pointed squarely at the AD.
3) Optics. If the messaging is correct regarding our intent and the media is clued in on the motives behind the boycott, the image of a completely empty student section during the opening seconds of the biggest home game at the Big House would be absolutely devastating to Brandon's reputation, and he could not recover from that nor brush it aside. This would set off a firestorm of national media attention that should end with Brandon's resignation.
These are three of the reasons why this form of protest is much better than an ad hoc protest by 500 students milling around in the diag or a protest of the regents meeting. Brandon needs to hear our voices and we will lose our momentum as well as our lone chance to effect change. A demonstration such as the one I proposed is efficient, on-point, and respectful of the players and the team (after kickoff we would all return to our seats - and cheer loudly for our TEAM)
It’s not yet clear how many of the students will actually participate in the protest, but their collective frustration with the athletic department is unquestionably palpable. That has led to the tweaking of the monthly “fireside chat” students have with the university president.
The fireside chat with the president is a regular monthly forum designed to help president Mark Schlissel (and President Mary Sue Coleman before him) hear from students about a variety of issues. The pool of students is randomly selected and is filled by invitation only. Based on the significant student uproar the length of the session has been extended and the number of invitations has been increased. Because Schlissel wants to hear specifically about the issues in football they have invited 100 randomly selected students that are season ticket holders and 200 randomly selected other students. Students that have already communicated their opinions on the topic to the president were not invited to assure a breadth of voices in the process.
Stay tuned to GoBlueWolverine for more on this developing story in the days to come.
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