This article was originally published on April 15, 2019.
On the eve of his inauguration — and after a week of campus whispering about a secret construction project — Chancellor Domenico Grasso unveiled what he hopes is a focal point for new traditions: a granite and bronze UM-Dearborn Block M on the sidewalk near the University Center.
“We are all part of the Block M. Let’s continue to build traditions around it,” Grasso said on Thursday to a group of students, faculty and staff who gathered for the unveiling.
“I want to build these connections — shared experiences — for alumni, students, faculty and staff to have,” he said. “I want us to have a proud sense of place when thinking about the University of Michigan-Dearborn. And there’s a strong sense of pride I believe we all feel when we see that Block M.”
Grasso said the Block M is a nod to one on the Diag at the “sister campus in Ann Arbor.” Legend has it that if a U-M student steps on the bronze M bad luck will come his or her way. More specifically, students are told that if they step on it before taking their first blue book exam, they will fail the exam.
“Even today, decades after graduation, I still don’t step on it when I’m there. I’m not a superstitious person, but sometimes you don’t want to tempt fate,” Grasso said, adding, “The idea is to unify our campuses through a shared idea. But that doesn’t mean that the tradition needs to be the same. As a campus, you decide.”
Following the unveiling, students were quick to gather and discuss the new campus addition.
Junior Vivien Adams said she liked the idea of a superstition, but would prefer to see a more positive association “so students don’t avoid it and instead want to seek it out.”
Senior Christopher Holly agreed. He suggested a group singing of The Victors around it prior to finals for good luck or touching the Block M when seeking out Wolverine power to get through a tough time.
“I’m excited to make it ours,” he said. “We have traditions like the cardboard boat race. But now we have something tangible that we can see all year. I can see telling my friends, ‘Hey, let’s meet up at the Block M.’ Maybe alumni will come back and take photos with it every year and touch it for good luck.”
Regardless of the superstition attached, Adams agreed with the chancellor’s overall message about the importance of tradition — especially for a commuter campus.
“This is something that helps bring people together,” she said. “Our campus has students who come from a variety of backgrounds and places. But things like this — traditions — bind us together.”