Protesters filled Wayne State’s Board of Governors meeting on Jan. 29 to rally against the university’s decision to sponsor an upcoming event that will honor Gov. Rick Snyder.
The WSU Mike Ilitch School of Business is sponsoring a Crain’s Detroit Business event, which will honor Snyder as one of the publication’s “Newsmakers of the Year,” on Feb. 9. Leaders from the Marcus Garvey Movement/New Black Panther Nation and Defenders of Truth and Justice voiced their concerns at the meeting.
“Wayne State is awarding Snyder for poisoning people,” Reverend W.J. Rideout III, president of the Defenders of Truth and Justice, said. “He’s messed up a school system and he shouldn’t be on here. I don’t think Wayne State should be giving him an award at all.”
WSU Director of Communications Matthew Lockwood said he thinks the protesters were misplaced.
“They’re protesting an award that Crain’s Detroit Business is giving, not Wayne State,” he said. “If they have a problem, they should be talking to Crain’s."
“We’re supporting the event because of Mike and Chris Ilitch, who gave us a generous gift. We bought a table at the event to show our support. I don’t see how it’s a Wayne State issue, and we didn’t even know that Snyder was also named a newsmaker.”
Lockwood also said that Wayne State is sponsoring the event because WSU alumni, such as Matt Simoncini, CEO of Lear Corp., were also named newsmakers.
Before the meeting began, a protester came up to the podium, expressed his frustration with the university, and had to be escorted out of the room by police.
“Snyder lied, and because he lied, people died,” he said. “You can remove me, and that’s all right, but at the end of the day, this man lied.”
After the governors went through the meeting agenda, they opened up the discussion for public comments. Minister Malik Shabazz, leader of the New Marcus Garvey Movement/Black Panther Nation, spoke during the public forum.
“We have a problem here,” Shabazz said during the discussion. “And you all are a part of awarding Governor Snyder. [He] needs to be taken off of this award. There is no reason to give him an award.”
During the discussion, WSU President M. Roy Wilson thanked Shabazz for expressing his concerns.
“You’re in your rights to do so,” Wilson said during the discussion. “But I will tell you, and I think you know this, that we do not have the authority to rescind any award. This is not our ceremony, this is Crain’s Detroit ceremony.”
Wilson said he thinks the protesters are misunderstanding what the university can and cannot do.
“I understand it, but there’s nothing we can do. It’s not our event,” he said.