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Posted on Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 11:14 a.m.

Andrew Shirvell vs. Chris Armstrong, part of a back story to the conflict

By Edward Vielmetti


Courtesy Chris Dzombak

Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong (right, wearing red) is the target of Michigan Assistant Attorney General and Ave Maria School of Law graduate Andrew Shirvell at a protest at the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's May 2010 showing of The Laramie Project. Shirvell's sign, reading "Order of Angell = KKK", refers to the once-secret University of Michigan student organization formerly known as Michigamua.

Recent news attention has focused on Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell's one-man campaign against University of Michigan Student Assembly president Chris Armstrong.

With any story there is some kind of back story, and most news headlines don't give you that back story. Here's some attempt at putting this conflict in the context of other actions and activities in the Ann Arbor area, based on the written and photographic record that mostly existed before it hit the media full force.

Shirvell vs. Armstrong at Laramie Project protest

The best photographic evidence of conflict between Shirvell and Armstrong is at the protest held earlier this year at the performance of the Laramie Project. A set of protesters from the notorious Westboro Baptist Church had announced their intent to show up, and a counterprotest was organized. Westboro didn't show up, but one lone man did protest the play: Andrew Shirvell.

Contemporary news coverage of that event:

  • Laramie Project event calendar listing,
  • story by Erica Hobbs, "Gay rights activists rally."
  • Between The Lines account of the conflict between Shirvell and Armstrong: "Shirvell's latest anti-gay heckling of UM student president Armstrong at the May 8 rally was met with calls for ignoring him. Some, however, didn't. Washtenaw County Commissioner Jeff Irwin, who is running for state representative in his district, called Shirvell a "bozo" at the event and attempted to take his poster, which read "Chris Armstrong = Racist LIAR" and reported Armstrong's affiliation with the Order of Angell, a by-invitation-only honors society at UM."

The sign: 'Order of Angell = KKK' held by Andrew Shirvell

The sign that Shirvell holds at the event equates the Order of Angell with the KKK.

If you are not familiar with U-M secret societies, the Order of Angell is the new name for Michigamua, a long-standing secret group which was banished from the tower of the Michigan Union and forced to change its name after proven allegations of the use of Native American artifacts caused embarrassment for the group and for senior leadership at the university.

As the Order of Angell, the group publishes its membership list, so it's not secret any more. Armstrong is a member. But as the comments on the Michigan Daily's story about that list show, the group is a flashpoint for long-standing resentment at the university on racial matters.

More about the Order of Angell

  • Michigan Daily story on this year's Order of Angell class 2011 tap; 96 comments.
  • College Democrats speak out against MSA President Chris Armstrong joining Order of Angell, Michigan Daily.
  • Former Michigan Daily editor Rob Goodspeed's Goodspeed Update on Michigamua: "The largest and oldest society at the University of Michigan was known as "Michigumua" from 1902 until 2007, when the group changed their name to "Order of Angell" and decided to release the names of all new members. Michigamua received a great deal of publicity when a coalition of students who claimed their practices were racist and offensive to students of color invaded their meeting rooms in the top floors of the student union."
  • University of Michigan LGBT activist Jim Toy joins the Order of Angell as an honorary member and describes his decision in To Build A Bridge, 2007: "I accepted the invitation into membership. In my association with these students, I have been honored to work with a diverse cross-section of campus leaders committed to renewing the group - slowly, carefully and deliberately transforming it into a diverse and transparent entity dedicated to serving the University. The care these seniors have contributed each year to understanding and supporting each other, embracing the group's diversity and quietly serving the University has supported and inspired my own activism."

Edward Vielmetti was never invited into Michigamua while at the University of Michigan. Reach him at



Tue, Oct 26, 2010 : 8:06 p.m.

For being so thorough with all the Shrivell history research, why such sloppy hyperbole with the Order of Angel description? Even the the Student Daily articles represented them much more fairly! For example: they were not banished, they chose to leave the tower, and they weren't forced into any name change as the other articles all say they chose to do so on their own years after the tower. And no allegations were proven by anyone outside of the kids that broke into the tower in the first place. And they weren't even secret during any of that, nor in most all of their heyday as Michigama.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 3:46 p.m.

Sorry to drag Mike Cox into this discussion, but how in the world did Shirvell, a recent graduate from law school, land a job in the Attorney General's Office with this kind of background? Honestly, did they even try to do a background check on this guy? If Ed Vielmetti can find this info, why couldn't the AG's Office? One would not have to disqualify Shirvell on his obvious inability to be impartial, he's simply displaying behaviors that would deem him unstable. This is even more evidence of how lucky we were that Mike Cox did not win the Republican nomination for Governor.


Fri, Oct 1, 2010 : 9:29 a.m.

1)Edward: you seem to be one of the news media who actually likes to report the important facts. which is becoming extremely rare these days. Keep it up. 2) My first impression about Shirvell is that he cannot be particularly bright - if he fails to realize that his methods of attacking Armsrong [in his attempt to disaparage/discredit Armstrong] are actually causing an 180 degree opposite effect. Shirvell would be more effective in his cause if he kept his mouth shut.


Fri, Oct 1, 2010 : 3:03 a.m.

So anyone whose views are not shared by Shirvell are "Radical" and a threat to him? I see that word "radical" used an awful lot by him. Intolerance is ugly. "I have no tolerance for intolerance!"


Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 7:10 p.m.

@Edward - Thank you for the research. Illuminating.


Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 2:10 p.m.

Ave Maria? nuff said.