President addresses ‘American Sniper’ situation
April 16, 2015
Here are U-M President Mark Schlissel’s remarks regarding the “American Sniper” movie, offered at the beginning of the April 16 Board of Regents meeting:
I want to address some of the issues that arose last week over the scheduling of the film, American Sniper, at a social event on campus. These issues are ones we must learn from and become better at dealing with as a campus community.
The showing was originally canceled following concerns voiced by members of the Muslim community. The cancellation was then protested – with serious concerns of free speech and freedom of choice at issue. We showed American Sniper as scheduled, while also providing an alterative option elsewhere on campus.
Though I agree that the initial cancellation was a mistake due to free speech and choice issues it created, I am also very concerned for those who feel marginalized and hurt by certain types of speech. Muslim students on our campus have shared some of their experiences with me in this regard. As a community, we must confront all of these issues in order to provide a safe and free place to learn and interact, and an environment that is conducive to the discussion of controversial topics.
The ability of social media to raise the temperature on an issue so quickly needs to be factored in as we move forward. In many cases, the instantaneous commentary it allows makes it virtually impossible to engage in a productive dialogue. There are no perfect, or even easy, answers here. The underlying values are at odds, but we must work through them to achieve a balance that will allow us to grow as individuals and as an institution of higher learning.
This balance, however, should not include the hateful and threatening comments that have been directed at members of our community. Hate speech and threats have no place at the University of Michigan.
Statement from E. Royster Harper,
University of Michigan vice president for student life
April 8, 2015
It was a mistake to cancel the showing of the movie “American Sniper” on campus as part of a social event for students.
The initial decision to cancel the movie was not consistent with the high value the University of Michigan places on freedom of expression and our respect for the right of students to make their own choices in such matters.
The movie will be shown at the originally scheduled time and location.
We recognize, however, that some students are uncomfortable with the content of the movie, and appreciate that concern.
Therefore, the university also will show an alternative movie, “Paddington,” in another location on campus at that same time and date to provide our students with additional options that evening.