Denounce White Supremacy, Hate Speech, and Ethnically & Racially Motivated Intolerance

Dr. Richard J. Koubek - President of Michigan Technological University, Dr. Janet Callahan - Dean of College of Engineering, Dr. Glen Archer - Interim Chair of Electrical & Computer Engineering, University Senate of MTU, Dr. Jeffrey Burl of ECE, GSG, & US

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Michigan Technological University is a vibrant campus with people from various communities coming together for one single purpose - and that is to change the world by being crazy smart. However, because of the turmoil our country is going through, minorities are in vulnerable situations mental and physical safety wise. It’s important that we put importance on educating our students, friends, and colleagues about hurtful rhetoric and contextually incorrect information to help our communities thrive on and off campus.

Petition by
Mufazzal Hossain
Woodhaven, New York

To: Dr. Richard J. Koubek - President of Michigan Technological University, Dr. Janet Callahan - Dean of College of Engineering, Dr. Glen Archer - Interim Chair of Electrical & Computer Engineering, University Senate of MTU, Dr. Jeffrey Burl of ECE, GSG, & US
From: [Your Name]

Greetings,

My name is Mufazzal Hossain. I’m a Michigan Tech Alumnus and the District Leader of the Democratic Party from New York’s 38th Assembly District. I’m writing this letter on behalf of every Michigan Tech student, staff, instructor, professor, etc. who are concerned and hurt by the damaging and ignorant letter sent to the University Senate from Associate Professor Jeffrey B. Burl of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Based on 2018 enrollment data, about 10% of 5,762 students enrolled as undergraduate students are from minority communities and 2% of them being international students. Among 781 enrolled Master’s degree students, 57% of them are international and 7.4% of them are hyphenated American minorities. There are 546 Doctoral degree enrollees, of which almost 62% are from abroad and 7.7% are hyphenated American minorities. This data is testimony to the fact that Tech is a community with thriving culture and mixing of traditions. It is important that we match our values and norms with the standards of high-quality education that are being provided by this community and its diverse members. Unfortunately, our country has witnessed civil unrest for far too long and most of the unrest was based on either religious discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, gender discrimination, or differences of skin color. Below I have listed key statistics to further justify the necessity of this open letter.

1. Anti-Defamation League recorded 2,107 anti-semitic incidents throughout the United States in the year 2019, which is a 12% increase from the numbers recorded in 2018. The numbers in 2019 are also is the most amount of anti-semitic incident recording ever since 1979. According to the Audit of Anti-Semitic Incident in 2019 by ADL, “of the 2,107 incidents recorded in 2019, 1,127 were cases of harassment, a 6% increase from 1,066 in 2018, and 919 were cases of vandalism, a 19% increase from 774 in 2018. The 61 incidents of antisemitic assault (a 56% increase from 39 in 2018), involved 95 victims and led to five deaths.

2. According to Pew Research Center, Muslims in America have faced Islamophobia ever since 2001. During 2015-2016, America saw a rise of Anti-Muslim assault up to 127 incidents and the numbers surpassed the 93 recorded cases in 2001. Overall there were 307 Islamophobic attacks including assaults in 2016 — a 15% increase from the numbers recorded in the prior year. Based on the mapping done by New America, Michigan has had the 5th highest number of Anti-Muslim actions recorded since 2012. Most of these actions include opposition to refugee resettlement, statements by elected & appointed officials, and hate incidents against mosques and Islamic Centers.

3. According to the 2015 US Transgender Study, 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted. The rate is much higher if only transgender people are counted from the BIPOC community. The study also found that 20% of incarcerated transgender people are sexually assaulted or raped by staff members. CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that bisexuals and lesbians are harassed and assaulted at a significantly higher rate than straight women. According to the FBI, hate crimes against LGBTQ+ have been increasing since 2016.

4. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that 19.3 million women were stalked in their lifetime in America — the number is almost 4 times higher than the number of men being stalked by their partners. Women are 94% of the 74% of murder-suicide caused by partners. 1 in 5 women are raped in America compared to 1 in 71 men. 1 in 4 women are victims of physical violence compared to 1 in 7 men.

5. Only recently George Floyd was murdered by police officers in Minneapolis, MN. White supremacists murdered Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor was killed by police officers who raided the wrong home. These are not isolated incidents. Time and time again people of color, especially people from the black community were and are victims of police brutality and white supremacists. The policing system was founded in America to protect the rich in the North and to preserve slavery in the South. Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg used the ingrained racism within NYPD to allow them to stop and frisk black and brown people randomly. Black and brown people are killed religiously for “resembling” someone or for not “complying with instructions”, while reports based on the Department of Homeland Security states that in the first 8 months of 2020, 41 of 61 “terrorist plots and attacks” were planned by white supremacists.

6. We are facing a public health crisis in America. The COVID19 vaccine rollout is slow while new strains of the virus are coming out with faster infection rates. Minority communities in America are underfunded and that makes them more vulnerable to this pandemic. At a time like this, minorities require more support rather than sugarcoating and hiding the blatant racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and fascism present in our society.

Based on the brief discussion and numbers given above, it is clear that the minorities are at risk in America. It is shameful that after centuries of white colonialism in South Asia and Africa, some people from the white community refuse to understand how racism, xenophobia, fascism, etc. is deeply rooted in the white community towards anyone that is considered “different”. While society is changing and people from all communities are coming together to understand and learn from each other, it is still important to understand the privilege one may come with and the disadvantage others may have.

We, the people of Michigan Technological University denounce the sympathizing efforts of Associate Professor Jeffrey B. Burl of Electrical and Computer Engineering towards White Supremacy, Hate Speech, and Ethnically & Racially Motivated Intolerance through his letter by calling for, essentially, the rescinding of Resolution 41-21. The kind of language promoted by the professor is what we have been fighting for several years and his rhetoric is not at all the American way of inclusivity. It is absolutely the lowest form of gaslighting to reference Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak about equality to cover up his white fragility — that too just a few days after his birthday. Dr. King fought to provide the black community with equality, not so that a privileged white man can use it to his own fragile benefit. Several students reached out to Tech administration and received boilerplate statements & condolences instead of a solid plan of action. The written actions of Mr. Burl will only threaten the safety and comfortability of students, especially students of color and women from BIPOC communities. His work displays an unhealthy bias towards white men which may cloud his judgment in class. All of this may eventually hinder the educational prosperity that we cherish so much in Michigan Tech.

What is more infuriating is the response from Janet Callahan, Dean of College of Engineering, who responded to a concerned student’s email by saying that the author of the letter was simply stating an opinion of his own and not representing anyone or any group. We find her statement to be equally ignorant because Mr. Burl used the University letterhead, addressed the University Senate about a University resolution, and is employed by Tech. We simply cannot ignore these bigoted, racist, sexist, ignorant remarks when people of color, women of color, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ+ community members, and Black community members are harassed, hurt, assaulted, and even killed. Her “assurance” in regards to her commitment to fighting evils as such is nothing more than a mere hollow promise in our eyes. Mr. Burl delivered a statement to his students say that he is not a racist nor a bigot. He then told them to not be distracted. Are the issues of the minorities a mere distraction? Statements as such are not apologies nor clarifications but are the ignorance of a privileged white man who’s too fragile to have the tough discussions discussions, especially because he was making ignorant comments regarding people who look like me while his salary is funded by our tax money and tuition.

We call upon the President of Michigan Tech, Dean of College of Engineering, Chair of Electrical & Computer Engineering, University Senate, GSG, and USG to condemn his written actions and to provide him and anyone that defended him with the proper training required to understand equity. We want an official apology from him and anyone that defended him admitting white privilege and committing to having these hard discussions. We want a hearing held by the University Senate and monitored & moderated by members of the minority community. If, after several trials, he and his sympathizers fail to understand, we hope the University will consider other serious actions that may lead to the termination of their employment.

Ever Upwards With Solidarity!
Mufazzal Hossain
Michigan Tech Alumnus (MS in Civil Engg)
Democratic District Leader, New York AD 38
mhossa10@mtu.edu
On behalf of concerned Tech students and Alumni