Virtual Cafes

Reaffirming our commitment to an inclusive campus community (September 10, 2020)

Dear Colleagues, Students, Alumni and Friends,

The University of Michigan-Dearborn has historically demonstrated a commitment to being a welcoming, respectful and inclusive campus. The university is resolved to continuing that pursuit and has demonstrated evidence of that commitment. We don’t shy away from difficult, yet necessary, discussions and debates on a variety of issues that impact our campus, region, country and world. However, earlier this week, we made a mistake that was a significant misstep resulting in harm and pain within our community and beyond. As the Chancellor of the university, I want to apologize and share my thoughts. 

On September 8, our Center for Social Justice and Inclusion hosted two concurrent virtual conversations, which were called “cafes.” One was described as for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), another for non-POC (please note, these were online Zoom gatherings, not in-person events). These virtual cafes were intended to provide members of our campus community with opportunities to reflect on their lived experiences. However, the framing and presentation of the purpose and intended outcomes of these events were poorly conceived and executed. 

As a result, our community is hurting. Our opportunity to create meaningful and consequential conversation was lost. But we remain steadfast in our ability to listen and learn. Moving forward, we are working to ensure that all future events and programming are promoted in a way that reflects the university's long-standing core values and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. As we continue to create opportunities to have these discussions, we welcome your insights and suggestions for more effective and engaging conversations. Your input and these conversations will be essential both to our university’s collective future and to our role in finding solutions to pressing issues facing society.  

To be sure, this is a painful and upsetting episode, and one that does not reflect the University of Michigan-Dearborn as we know it. I also know that we are resilient. And I am determined to not let this mistake deter us from promoting a respectful, welcoming and inclusive campus environment for everyone. Nor will we, as a community of scholars of higher learning, shy away from discussing uncomfortable or controversial ideas. What we can, and must do, is learn from this and continue fostering a better, more equitable society for everyone.

Please accept my commitment to ensuring a lapse like this does not happen again. 

With heartfelt and sincere apologies,

Domenico Grasso


Virtual Cafes (September 9, 2020)

UM-Dearborn sincerely regrets the terms used to describe the "cafe" events held on September 8. 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.

University of Michigan-Dearborn is committed to fostering and maintaining an inclusive campus environment and encourages ongoing dialogue amongst our students, faculty and staff on challenging issues. As campus activities continue to operate in a predominantly remote capacity due to COVID-19, our Center for Social Justice and Inclusion has looked to develop virtual spaces that allow for these important conversations to continue. 

The “cafes” were virtual open conversations developed to allow students the opportunity to connect to process current events, share their experiences related to race, share knowledge and resources and brainstorm solutions. 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.

To ensure that these spaces were kept safe and respectful, the “cafes” had a faculty/staff member as a facilitator.

The events were never intended to be exclusive or exclusionary for individuals of a certain race. Both events were open to all members of the UM-Dearborn campus community.