U of M-Dearborn hosts separate ‘cafe’ events for people of color and white students

    University of Michigan-Dearborn | MichiganCharms, Wikimedia Commons CC BY 4.0

    The University of Michigan-Dearborn held two virtual events Tuesday titled “Non-POC Cafe” and “POC Cafe” for students to discuss their experiences with race, but after backlash ensued on social media, the events were taken down from the university’s website.

    According to the event posting, the Non-POC [people of color] Cafe was intended to be a “space for students that do not identify as persons of color to gather and discuss their experience as students on campus and as non-POC in the world.”

    The event was facilitated by a non-POC faculty/staff member “to ensure that discussions are kept safe and respectful” and attendees were encouraged to “brainstorm solutions to common issues within the non-POC community.”

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    The “POC Cafe” was hosted for Black, Indigenous and People of Color and had identical messaging for the intent of the event. 

    Both of the event postings have since been taken down by the university. 

    In a statement Wednesday, the University of Michigan-Dearborn wrote that the university “sincerely regrets the terms used to describe the ‘cafe’ events” and said the terms “were not clear and not reflective of the university’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

    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,” the statement read.    

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    The statement also said the events “were never intended to be exclusive or exclusionary for individuals of a certain race” and both events were open to all members of the campus community. 

    The events, which were hosted by the Center for Social Justice and Inclusion, were planned to be held bimonthly.

    Beth Marmarelli, director of the university’s office of communications, said the university is going “to continue to look for ways to have the dialogue … but the format will likely change shape.”

    The Center for Social Justice and Inclusion did not respond to a request for comment. 

    Allison Donahue
    Allison Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.