Glenn “Shemy” Schembechler III is no longer employed by the University of Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department.
You probably aren’t wondering why, but here’s the timeline!
- May 17, 2023: Michigan announces hiring of Schembechler as assistant director of football recruiting after a “thorough” background check.
- May 17, 2023, like 10 minutes later: It surfaces that Schembechler had, per the Detroit News, liked “a number of posts and “likes” of multiple offensive and insensitive posts, including several suggesting slavery and Jim Crow were positives to strengthen Black individuals and families.”
- May 20, 2023: On a Saturday night, Michigan AD Warde Manuel and Jim Harbaugh released a joint statement announcing Schembechler’s firing.
- May 21, 2023: Schembechler, through an Arizona-based PR firm, issued the following statement:
Any words or philosophies that in any way seek to underplay the immeasurable suffering and long-term economic and social inequities that hundreds of years of slavery and the “Jim Crow” era caused for Black Americans is wrong. I was wrong. We must never sanitize morally unsanitary, historical behaviors that have hindered the Black community, or any other community. There are no historical silver linings for the experience of our brothers and sisters.
Based on someone’s past actions having been liking posts suggesting “slavery was gud 4 black ppl tho”, I’m gonna go ahead and call bullshit on that being his belief now or at any other time in his past history.
Of course, Ol’ Schemboopler wants us to know otherwise!
While disappointed in my flippant behavior on Twitter, those who know me best like Stony Burks, Pierre Woods and many others will confirm what they know to be true in my heart and head. Let this be yet another unfortunate example of exercising better caution and judgment on social media, not just to avoid infringing on your lifetime commitments, core values and ideals, but to help continue the march of even more progress for our melting pot.
Buddy, I think your friends probably knew you were a racist piece of shit but dealt with you in the workplace, because that’s what people—particularly those of color—in the workplace just have to do! Congrats on Having Black Friends, though.
“March of even more progress for our melting pot” my ass.
At the start of and throughout the semester, as I teach, I watch students learn how to write and think through historical concepts. Early days are ugly: sentences meander or stop entirely without a subject-verb pairing, every other line is “This source says” or “According to the source by Susan B. Anthony,” and, occasionally, students slip from using modern conventions for talking about Black Americans into the actual designations used in the 1860s. It’s a learning experience, but you hope they’ll improve.
The world being what it is, you can occasionally fix a few of those things. If by the end of the semester a student is writing all in the past tense, removing all the caveats like “I think” and “According to the source by,” or putting two sources in conversation with one another, it’s a win. There are still rough-around-the-edges moments, but the student finds their voice in writing or becomes more capable and confident.
And then comes the take-home final.
Students sign an agreement to not use an AI generator, to plagiarize, to draw on ideas not written about in our course materials—the textbook, lecture slides and notes, and assigned readings are all they can use on the final.
And then come the submissions.
Some of it is benign—”Harry Truman, who was born on May 8, 1884” or “the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, otherwise known as ‘Taft-Hartley’”—betraying that students needed a little more background because they hadn’t taken adequate notes on Taft-Hartley and didn’t know where to look in the textbook.
Some of it is less benign—”the Taft-Hartley Act, which was passed to promote industrial peace and correct the pro-organized-labor bias of the New Deal”—and more clearly plagiarized from an ideologically-motivated website masquerading as Wikipedia.
But all of it tends to give away one thing: those aren’t your ideas, you don’t believe them, and if I asked you about them in a few days, you’d have no idea who said them.
When the work is returned to students with an “F0 - Plagiarism”, it’s accompanied by a note: “This work is not your own. The ideas contained within are taken from [X], in violation of your signed agreement that all writing will be your own and will draw only on assigned course materials.” Despite having warned them “I am proficient at Google and TurnItIn helps, too,” students still like to test that — including the links to the sites often shuts down any complaints or replies.
The era of AI has made that slightly more difficult, of course. While some “AI checkers” can supposedly tell me whether it’s likely that the writing was generated by AI, I’ve found that leads to too overzealously policing. The laziest of the lazy—the ones that use auto-Find-and-Replace to change the Voting Rights Act into the Selection Entitlements Act—don’t make it.
But the other ones aren’t much harder: when a student’s been grappling with the very idea of privilege or power or political representation in a class, much less how to communicate it, all I’m looking for on the final is progress. Not perfection. The straw that is “In this essay I will compare and contrast the leadership styles of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X” doesn’t spin overnight into the gold of “Debates between nonviolent democratic socialism or armed Black nationalism characterized the civil rights movement in the 1960s.” That’s not to say a student isn’t learning those concepts, of course. But it is to say that those high-level ideas aren’t learned, executed, and communicated overnight.
And they’re certainly not learned in a weekend.
This PR firm is spinning racist straw into the thinnest of gold gilding.
At the heart of it, my point isn’t to say “PR firms are morally repugnant and ought to be outlawed,” though there’s truth to that, too. It’s to suggest that these words, slapped together in 24 hours and now parroted with Schembechler’s full-throated endorsement, don’t begin to approach any kind of lesson learned.
You don’t go from liking RealPatriot0247389’s post on how “Slavery was good, actually” to decrying the “morally unsanitary, historical behaviors that have hindered the Black community” overnight. Hell, I’m lucky if a student can do that over the course of a semester.
But more importantly, you can’t actually come to believe that sentiment and work, earnestly to address it in the span of a weekend of bad PR. There’s a good chance Shemy had liked a post attacking ideas like those contained in this “apology” as “Critical Race Theory”!
Schembechler’s apology and the PR firm’s quick spinning has given us yet another hollow statement, devoid of any actual meaning or, more importantly, learning and action. Its one purpose is to allow racist sacks of shit to get another job in the NFL while hiding behind language that does fuck-all for undoing any structural and social inequities. And it throws this racist asshole back out into the world of employment while he avoids actually learning his or any lesson. I bet he’ll be back with the Commanders or Texans within a month.
And fuck Michigan for hiring him in the first place.