An attempt by Republican lawmakers to make the University of Michigan cease support for a liberal interest group is creating a nationwide response from university professors.
The Restaurant Opportunities Center, which one lobbyist describes as “the ACORN of the restaurant industry,” has been using U of M students as protesters. The students attend weekly protests of targeted restaurants and gain class credit.
State Rep. Joe Haveman added a provision preventing this practice to an education budget bill. Effectively, if the bill passed reconciliation, the Univ. of Michigan would have to cut ties to the ROC or risk losing nearly $5 million in funding. But 134 professors from around the country have signed a letter calling this an “infringement on academic freedom.” Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Bob Genetski supports the measure, saying, “As we see it, students can receive internship credit for basically shaking down Michigan businesses.”
The fight stems from a 15-month labor dispute between restaurant chain Andiamo and the Restaurant Opportunities Center. Every Friday, students earning credit would protest outside the restaurant. The dispute was settled in March 2011, but attorneys for both sides refused to comment on details of the case, citing “legal stipulations.”