Standing Up Against Hate: Chris Armstrong At The University of Michigan

The University of Michigan’s student counsel president Chris Armstrong has been a subject of national attention lately, due to the attacks on him by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell for spreading his “radical homosexual agenda” on the University of Michigan’s campus.  You can see the interview with this “concerned Michigan alumnus” as linked by MSP here.

I was really amazed by the students’ reaction to this on campus, and how it has morphed into a campaign promoting respect on campus.

Since the 1960′s, the Michigan student body has been known for its civil rights actions.  So, as soon as the students found out that their elected student body president was being discriminated against, they organized protests, Facebook groups, writing and calling campaigns, and stood up as a group to show that they will not tolerate injustice against a member of their community.

They also came up with a strong message that was put on t-shirts, as Facebook profile pictures, and as a full-page newspaper ad that ran last Tuesday:

“Elected by Us, Respected by Us.  I expect respect for myself and for my community.  When one member of our community is targeted, we are all attacked.”

The best thing that has come out of these unjust attacks was the chance for Chris to become a symbol for tolerance and justice for GBLT people, as well as a role model in how to deal with bullying.  When he appeared on Anderson Cooper 360, he took the opportunity to relate his experience to those of other persecuted teens and college students across the United States, and let them know that there are people that support them.  The support of U of M staff, faculty, and students demonstrates this perfectly.

Beth Jenkins and Gabe Javier are staff at the Spectrum Center at U of M.

There was a glowlight vigil this past Monday, Coming Out Day, for the victims of bullying and discrimination, and to show that hate speech has no place on our campus.

The campus police know this as well, since they have banned Andrew Shirvell from stepping foot on campus.  Poetic justice, I think, that a “concerned Michigan alumnus” who uses hate speech and discrimination can’t even go back to his own campus.  This sends a strong message that should be duplicated by colleges across the country.

You can see Chris’ appearance on Anderson Cooper here.

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T-Shirt image thanks to irregulartimes.com.

Student image by Craig VanKempen.

About Craig VanKempen

Craig VanKempen

Craig VanKempen, LLMSW/MPH, is a sex educator and therapist practicing in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area. His professional interests include HIV, polyamory, compulsive sexual behavior, religion and sexuality, and GLBT issues.

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    What is going on in America?!
    Maybe I missed the slow and gradual shift, but it certainly seems to me (and I keep my finger firmly on the pulse of US social change) that there is a radical element of the far right gaining considerable attention.
    Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the Tea Parties, and I truly believe that Obama has potentially destroyed any faith the American youth had in their political system – things do need to change, simply saying the word “change” while doing nothing to actually change anything is NOT change – but where has this sudden oppression and radical right emerged from?

    Good on them for fighting back. I just hope the will of the sensible people overpowers that of the small-minded radicals.