CMU’s Long Reach of Inclusion

Organizations are complex by their nature and have many attributes.  In our continued current commitment to racial justice and broader equity for all, we need to find and remove institutional barriers to inclusion.  However, we also should devote our energy to finding and promoting the hidden or forgotten elements of a usable past that extend inclusion into the heritage of the organization.  The negative dynamics of power often obscure over time the many positive elements and events that can give us hope and reassurance.

Central Michigan University has played a local and national role in social justice throughout its history.  For example, the migrant worker education program of the 1970s that held a reunion on campus in recent years led to tremendous social mobility for all of the participants and their families.  Professor Joseph Scott, an African American undergraduate from the 1950s provided intellectual leadership in the formation of Black Studies nationwide and benefitted from CMU’s Detroit recruitment efforts under President Anspach long before other universities did so.  Students Gene Ragland and Cecil Rice led efforts in the 1960s to expose racial housing discrimination among Mt. Pleasant landlords so that CMU trustees adopted a non-discrimination policy years before such policies were required by the federal government.  A collective of lesbian students from CMU, including and led by Lisa Vogel, brought to reality the influential Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.  The Vietnam War Moratorium in Washington DC, one of the most powerful national demonstrations for peace and international justice at the time, was co-led by a CMU student, Cathy Courtney.  She was building on the work of President Warriner, who in the 1920s was an influential national leader in the global movement for disarmament and peace.  Our earliest known African American alumna, Emma Norman Todd, graduated in 1909 with CMU’s highest degree qualification as a high school teacher.  She was from the rural community of Remus, one of several such communities across Michigan where people who had freed themselves came and settled farms in Michigan, often with indigenous communities, in places like Baldwin, Covert, Dowagiac, and Remus.  In the annual “Honoring, Healing, and Remembering” ceremonies, we recognize that we live in a community that has always had thousands of individuals of color with distinct cultures right here in Mt. Pleasant.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are not new to CMU or to any social organization, but sometimes we need to look closely and reframe our perspectives in order to see the rich presence of many all along in our ongoing work for true justice.  There is a river…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *