A recently formed activist group at Michigan State University refuses to accept the status quo again this year.
A group of students and alumni — billing themselves as “Pissed Off MSU” — last week printed more than 600 pamphlets they’re calling the “Disorientation Guide.” The booklets outline a history of rebellion and student resistance, and organizers want to ensure the largest freshman class in university history keeps up the fight.
“We wanted to underline the fact that as long as MSU has existed, there has been a history of a culture of activism,” said co-author and recent graduate Erin Paskus. “Basically, we’re saying that we’re not done. This school has a long way to go until it can be seen as welcoming and accepting to all students.”
The printed and online materials begin with the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw and the 1862 Morrill Land-Grant Act that helped lay the groundwork for what would later become MSU. “This act could only be passed as a result of the U.S. government violating numerous treaties,” according to the guidebook.
The university didn’t admit women until 1870, and black people weren’t able to enroll until 1885, according to the guide. It also outlines a 1965 sit-in on Abbot Road to demand an open occupancy law, and a protest against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia in 1970. But the later chapters take a turn against the university and its officials.
“I guess we just wanted to contextualize some of the activism that we’ve seen over the years,” Paskus added, noting she wants to continue the trend. “Especially for incoming freshman who might not even know what happened with Larry Nassar or when Richard Spencer was coming to speak.” Spencer is a nationally known white supremicist whose appearance this year at MSU set off clashes between Spencer supporters and oppnents.
Paskus, who graduated last year, said the 12-person organization formed last spring because they felt administrators ignored protests and the needs of students and staff.
They hope to grow the group this year.
Environmentalists in 2000 attacked a professor’s research because it was involved with Monsanto, according to the later pages. And the guide doesn’t fail to mention serial child molester and former MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar. But the university recognizes the right of free speech; Paskus said her group hasn’t faced any pushback.
This group was one of many distributing information during the recent Sparticipation event at Cherry Lane Field. “MSU does not censor or stop any of these groups,” a spokesperson emphasized in an email. Paskus billed her group’s presence at the event a success, save for one hiccup with a handcrafted, balloon banner.
Paskus said officials stepped in when they tried to float a “BORED OF THE TRUSTEES” banner over the field.
It never made it off the ground. “From the very beginning, Michigan State University has been a site of harassment, discrimination, and violence: from appropriating the land it sits on, to systemic cover ups of sexual violence, to the perpetual tuition hikes that turn the school into a playground for the elites,” according to the disorientation guide.
“For now, MSU is a place of corruption and lies financed by the debt of students where only the few have access,” it continues. “But confrontation breeds change.
When we fight for what we want, we get it. We can imagine a new university. Can you?”
Visit pissedoffmsu.wordpress.com to view the materials for yourself.