ANN ARBOR – Two University of Michigan graduate student workers were briefly detained in the downtown area on Thursday evening after attempting to enter a restaurant where University of Michigan President Santa J. Ono was dining and subsequently surrounding his car when he tried to leave.
According to a release from the Graduate Employees’ Organization, a group of its members learned where Ono would be dining and went to picket outside the establishment. In a video posted to the union’s Instagram account, some of the student employees tried to enter the restaurant to speak with Ono directly. After a brief exchange with what appears to be a restaurant employee, the striking workers said Ono’s security guard slammed a door in their faces.
The group documented the encounter in several videos on social media, showing them blocking Ono’s car from moving and a brief confrontation with University of Michigan campus police which resulted in a brief detention of two members, who were released shortly thereafter.
In a statement on Friday, the University of Michigan Board of Regents slammed the actions of the student employees as “wholly unacceptable.”
“Thursday evening, unruly GEO protesters came dangerously close to violence,” reads the statement. “They stormed a local Ann Arbor restaurant where President Santa J. Ono was meeting students for dinner. This important engagement was immediately derailed as protesters banged on the windows of the restaurant and then blocked a U-M Police vehicle from taking the president to safety, while pounding on the vehicle.”
The Regents called on GEO to continue collective bargaining with the university.
“We call on GEO leaders to stop actively disrupting the education of their fellow students, cease harassing our president and come to the bargaining table ready to recommit themselves to the critically important collective bargaining process,” reads the Regents’ statement.
Earlier on Thursday, U-M announced plans to withhold pay from GEO members’ April paychecks due to its ongoing strike that began on March 29.
“The administration would rather take us to court and detain us than address the urgent cost-of-living crisis that graduate workers face at the University of Michigan,” graduate worker who was detained on Thursday during the incident, Kathleen Brown, said in a statement.
According to the Board of Regents, GEO and members of the university’s administration have so far met for 27 bargaining sessions. GEO is demanding a 60% pay increase in its first year of a three-year contract. U-M is currently offering an 11.5% raise over the next three years.