Statement by President Mark S. Schlissel
Dec. 19, 2014
In response to recent media accounts referencing a column authored by Professor Susan Douglas, University of Michigan President Mark S. Schlissel has shared the following statement:
The article written by Professor Douglas reflects her own opinion and not that of the University of Michigan. Professor Douglas has publicly apologized for offending many in our community and offered an explanation for her rhetorical use of the term “hate” in this article. She has expressed her continued commitment to a classroom environment in which diverse opinions are welcomed, exchanged and discussed.
One of this university’s core values is the freedom to speak freely – to ask hard questions, to express controversial thoughts, and to provoke debate. We value a wide diversity of opinions. Academic freedom and free speech are essential to our enterprise.
But our core values also include civil discourse and the cultivation of a welcoming and respectful campus environment where students, faculty, and staff can live and learn without fear of hostility or reprisal based on who they are or what they believe. There is sometimes a natural tension between these values, and we must and will work vigilantly to ensure all members of our community can express diverse ideas and perspectives in a respectful environment.
Let me take advantage of my own right to speak freely by saying that expressing hate towards any group, rather than focusing on ideas and issues, is not up to Michigan’s standards of discourse and civil behavior. Broad, negative generalizations about any group do not, in my view, facilitate informed and intelligent debate. Rather, they produce alienation, resentment and even hate in return, and are unlikely to lead to deeper understanding. I speak only for myself here, but with the confidence that these are values widely shared across our campus.
Professor Douglas’ clarification of her intention to use the language rhetorically and her apology help provide an opportunity for us to move forward with constructive and positive discussions. Thank you once again for weighing in on this important issue.
Mark S. Schlissel, M.D., Ph.D.
Statement by Prof. Susan J. Douglas
Dec. 18, 2014
In the January 2015 issue of In These Times, I wrote an article titled “We Can’t All Just Get Along,” bemoaning the rise of political animus in our country. The magazine then, without my knowledge or approval, changed the title for the online version to “It’s Okay to Hate Republicans.” This title inaccurately represents the main point of the article and suggests an advocacy position I do not hold.
While I had nothing to do with it, I regret the implications this title has for my university and especially for our students. I have asked the magazine to change the title back to what it was and to issue a disclaimer that I never knew about nor approved the online title.
I opened the article with “I hate Republicans.” Then I noted how I used to work for a Republican politician whom I adored. I used this rhetorical flourish, in fact, to hold myself up as an example of how really bad our political climate has gotten and how so many of us have gotten locked into fixed political positions. The article’s main point is to bemoan this situation.
It is precisely my commitment as a teacher to welcome and encourage all points of view in my classrooms that I am so concerned about climates of intolerance. Thus I especially regret any suggestion I may have conveyed that some students are not welcome or would find a hostile environment in my classrooms. I have been, and remain, dedicated to creating a classroom environment in which diverse opinions are welcomed, exchanged and discussed.
Susan J. Douglas
Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor and Chair
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor
Department of Communication Studies
University of Michigan
Dec. 17, 2014
In response to recent media accounts referencing a column authored by Professor Susan Douglas, the University of Michigan has shared the following statement:
The views expressed are those of the individual faculty member and not those of the University of Michigan.
Faculty freedom of expression, including in the public sphere, is one of the core values of our institution.
At the same time, the university must and will work vigilantly to ensure students can express diverse ideas and perspectives in a respectful environment and without fear of reprisal.
The university values viewpoint diversity and encourages a wide range of opinions.