By GEOFF MEHL, Staff Reporter
Before Michigan’s homecoming football game against Indiana on Nov. 1, controversy was swirling regarding athletic director Dave Brandon and his position with the university.
During the week leading up the game, plans to protest Brandon and his current position were in the works by students, alumni, and donors. The plan was to hold a “White out, Dave out.”
The event was organized by Craig Kaplan, a University of Michigan senior who was part of the previous protest held on campus by roughly 1000 students a few weeks prior.
On Oct. 31, the day before the homecoming game, Brandon announced his resignation as the athletic director. This of course, killed the protest, but it may have still had an effect on the situation.
“When that news came out that there would be a whiteout, I think that was the final catalyst in removing Brandon,” Kaplan said. “Schlissel said in his statement that Brandon began the resignation process Wednesday morning. The email that notified the signers of the petition of the whiteout was sent out Tuesday night.
“I think it was the crucial point that pushed out Brandon.”
Kaplan’s motivation was clear as to why the protest was necessary, and he knew by taking it to the Big House, their message would be heard.
“It was the most effective way of bringing large-scale attention to the issue… it was a way to engage as many stakeholders in this vital issue as possible – students, alumni, fans, faculty, staff, etc.,” he said. “It allowed for media to have a specific event to focus on and allowed the leaders of this movement to have a publicly stated and focused goal.”
Though it may seem like a protest that never truly happened may not have had an impact, it may have shown the power of the student body.
“I think the influence of students is always there, it’s just a matter of organizing people together as one unified voice…this shows the power that students have on their campus if they handle it in mature ways,” Kaplan said.
Along with a student influence, Kaplan felt that the whiteout was a responsible and effective way to protest and represent the university and its students.
“By being open, organized, democratic and respectful, we were able to galvanize the stakeholders of the university and represent the movement with maturity and that gave us added validity,” he said. “Don’t throw rocks, make it personal or try to subvert the system.
“Without that validity, I don’t think this movement would be as effective or would have transpired as swift as the events did.”
After the resignation, there seemed to be a general sigh of relief from the fan base, students, and alumnus. Kaplan, who held a vested interest in Brandon’s removal, felt happy and vindicated.
“I was overwhelmed with pride in our university for doing the right thing and making the tough decisions,” he said. “I was proud of all the people that had reached out to me and supported me as we worked to remove Brandon…it made it so that all our work meant something.”
Now that Brandon is out and the search for the permanent athletic director is underway, Kaplan had a message for all those involved in helping the protest along the way and takes pride in being a student at Michigan.
“I’m proud of everyone who has been involved in this whole movement, and I appreciate Brandon doing the right thing and stepping down,” he said. “This is the university that I love and which has been a major influence on me for my entire life – I am just proud to have done my small part in the bigger picture and history of this great university.”