Open Letter: Michigan Tech University’s Racial Threat (from a Black Alumni)

On November 13, 2015 Michigan Tech University (MTU) made national news with the University of Missouri, Marist and a series of universities for racial threats targeted toward  African American students on campus. As an African American Alumni of Michigan Technological University I felt the responsibility to respond. A 21-year-old Mechanical Engineering student named Matthew Allen Shultz from Norway posted in Yik Yak, ‘Gonna shoot all black people.’

For those who are unfamiliar with Michigan Tech let me paint a picture of the environment. MTU has an enrollment of about 7,000 students of which 82 students (1.1% of enrollment) are African American. Most African American students are from Southeastern Michigan (Detroit, Flint and Saginaw) and on a good day the school is a seven to nine hour drive when there is no snow. It is remotely located one hour from the tip of the Upper Peninsula so there are no short trips for their family to come to campus for a quick visit or in case of an emergency, so safety and peace of mind are critical.

I realize one student does not represent the sentiment of the majority of the campus, the school’s leadership or the local judicial system. The President of the University Glenn Mroz responded immediately, the African American students held a peaceful candle march and the student has been arraigned. However, the case is not closed. So, I urge all parties involved to continue working together to make Michigan Tech and the surrounding community a safe environment where all students, staff, faculty and local residents can function without the fear of threat regardless of their color. Make no mistake Michigan Tech’s ability to recruit and retain minority students (Black, African, Asian, etc.) hangs in the balance. The world is watching how this situation is handled.

  • Anonymous

    I agree! I went to Michigan Tech (2003 grad) and lived in a smaller town than Houghton before hand. I quickly made a wide range of life-long friends from various backgrounds and countries.
    I was completly sheltered and thought some of my African American friends were jaded and that everyone loves everybody…
    This was until I was a part of numerous and dangerous situations my friends lived on a daily basis. Lived to the point they were almost immune to them. That horrified me just as much as what was happening to them. There was no campus support and only 3 African American Greek groups to join to get support (2 male/1 female).
    One of the most eye opening experiences happened when a friend and I were walking to The Library to eat. A group of people in a truck drove up on us, yelled n****r out their window and drove on the sidewalk attempting to murder my friend. He pushed me out of the way and jumped on a light post. This has so many things wrong with it besides the attempt on his life. Why did he already have reactions built in that saved our lives while I stood there frozen? Because this wasn’t the first time that’s why. I forced him to go to the police station. He told me it wouldn’t matter and he was right. The police said “they were just messing around, no one was hurt”. No one was hurt because my friend risked his life for me, to save me from ignorance.
    Enough is not done at the campus or community level to show support for the African American community.
    (From a Caucasian Woman Alumni)

  • guest

    Mr. Flemings..with all due respect, the quote you wrote above was sent to the university via twitter from a controversial group known as Nunya Bizness. This group added an antagonizing message to Les P Cook, Vice President of student affiars. Charges were dismissed. Remember, the Prosecutor said miscommunication between himself and the university existed. It is so very important we let the truth come out before we become Judge, Jury, and Executioner. The student arrested did not threaten anyone. Yik Yak required a subponea. Yik Yak has a policy to release any post threatening in nature. These are facts, not the lies you see in the media. I assure you, this student is not racist.