October 4, 2019
Dear President Schlissel,
I write to you on behalf of the Huron Valley Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, representing 50 local affiliates with about 20,000 members who live and work in Washtenaw, Livingston, Jackson and Hillsdale Counties. At our monthly Delegates’ meeting, on October 1, HVALF delegates voted unanimously to send you this letter which will be cc’d to the Regents and County Prosecutor Brian Mackie, posted on our HVALF Facebook and web sites, and shared with the Michigan Daily.
On March 15, 2019, a group of UM and Ann Arbor High School students occupied your office for several hours. The students had a single, simple demand: that you commit to a student-moderated public meeting, on a date of your choosing, to discuss what the UM should be doing to address the climate crisis. The students had been asking you for such a meeting for some time, but you refused to make such a commitment. They thought a moderate, peaceful form of direct action was called for. Shortly after 5pm on the 15th, you had the 10 students (eight from UM and two from Ann Arbor High Schools) who remained in your Fleming Building office arrested and removed. You then asked County Prosecutor Brian Mackie to charge the eight UM students with trespassing. Mackie did as you asked.
We believe that the students were right to push you to revisit and improve the steps our university is taking to address the climate crisis. You should have been willing to meet with them with without the need for any kind of direct action. Doubling down by having the students arrested and prosecuted adds injury to insult and is deeply offensive to our values. These young people are taking on responsibilities that too many of their elders have refused to accept for much too long. They should be respected and engaged, not ignored and intimidated.
We demand that you tell County Prosecutor Brian Mackie that you do not want these UM students prosecuted and let the University of Michigan community know when you have done this. If we do not hear from you by Friday, October 11, we will assume that you intend to carry on with your mistaken effort to intimidate UM students.
President, Huron Valley Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
c.c. The Regents of the University of Michigan, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie