U-M statements on campus safety and free expression

Nov. 22, 2023

The University of Michigan has a long tradition of student activism and civic engagement. For generations, our campus community has confronted controversial topics of the day, firmly upholding each member’s right to free expression and intellectual freedom. We do so not simply as the perfunctory responsibility of a public institution, but because grappling with difficult ideas as a community helps to prepare the next generation of leaders to more richly participate in a democratic society.

At times, our commitment to activism and free expression is tested by our equally firm commitment to providing a safe, secure environment where all of our students can thrive, and all of our employees can carry out their work in support of U-M’s critical mission as a public research university. It’s a delicate balance – a balance that was upset on Friday, Nov. 17, when demonstrators forcibly accessed the locked Alexander G. Ruthven Building, causing damage and requiring a response from law enforcement.  By the evening’s end, two police officers were injured and 40 people were arrested for trespassing after multiple warnings to leave the premises.

While a more thorough investigation of the night’s events is ongoing, one thing is certain — this incident is not representative of who we are as a university or our deeply held values regarding free expression and open discourse. Physical force does nothing to advance this important discussion happening at the University of Michigan and on college campuses across the country.

We urge everyone in our community to reflect this week on the kind of campus culture we want to foster. We must continually commit ourselves to engaging with different perspectives and experiences, exchange ideas peacefully, question views with which we disagree and move toward greater understanding. Even in times of immense tension, we must reject an environment where aggression replaces words, where we shout down rather than dissent or where we move toward anger, fear and animosity.

Our community must continue to pursue a more inclusive and thoughtful path. Nov. 17 fell short of our ideals. We must fulfill our mission and live up to the moniker of “leaders and best.”

Oct. 27, 2023

Ann Arbor campus community:

Our community and our fundamental values are being tested. Recent events in the world have left us horrified, angry, fearful, and sad, and have heightened anxiety on campus.

Many in our community have expressed their genuine concerns about safety and discrimination, and university leaders take those concerns seriously.

Safety for all is our highest priority.

The University of Michigan’s deep commitment to free expression does not extend to speech or conduct that violates the law or university policy, including targeted speech that involves bullying, defamation, destruction of property, harassment, or threats. And there are many avenues for reporting threatening behavior or violence.

The university also will not tolerate unequal treatment of students based on their beliefs. Our institution has a deep and ongoing commitment to respecting differing life experiences, perspectives and backgrounds.

U-M has put in place a number of interventions to assure the continuity of education in the safest manner possible. These measures include the following:

  • The Division of Public Safety and Security has increased its presence during campus events to ensure the safety of everyone involved. DPSS also maintains contact with state, local and federal partners regarding current events and any potential impact to our community from external sources.
  • The Office of the Provost is working with school and college leaders to address allegations of inappropriate conduct and timely corrective action is taken, if warranted.
  • The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching has created resources to assist faculty in managing classroom discussions, including, for example, Guidelines for Discussing Difficult or High-Stakes Topics and Strategies for Managing Hot Moments in the Classroom.

Our community’s response to the crisis in the Middle East also is driving the need for increased student support and engagement. This has included direct outreach to international students from Israel and Gaza, actively working with partners supporting impacted communities and providing both formal and informal conflict resolution services.

Those who experience incidents where they believe their safety has been affected are directed to contact DPSS to make a report. Reports of Campus Climate Concerns can be filed through the Dean of Students Office. If students, faculty or staff want to report incidents anonymously, they may file a Campus Climate Report through the Dean of Students Office.

As an institution dedicated to learning, discourse and reasoned debate, the University of Michigan welcomes the expression of diverse viewpoints. Our commitment to free expression requires us to grapple with uncomfortable ideas, listen to others, think critically and ground our arguments in evidence.

Students, faculty, staff and guests must be able to express their views and opinions without the fear of threats, intimidation or violence. They must also be free to be themselves, honor their identities and fully engage within our community without discrimination or harassment.

The university remains steadfast in our commitment to ensuring a secure environment.

We must take care of ourselves and each other. Together, we can keep our community safe while respecting our differences and supporting a vigorous and thoughtful exchange of ideas.

Support resources:

Safety information: The Division of Public Safety and Security provides a wide range of personal safety tips on its website here: https://www.dpss.umich.edu/content/prevention-education/safety-tips/

Dean of Students Office: This office regularly assists students who are experiencing situations that may be interrupting their academic and campus life. Regular business hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Email: deanofstudents@umich.edu; phone:734-764-7420.

International Center: Information and resources for international students regarding their immigration and visa-related needs and challenges, and any travel-related concerns. Call 734-764-9310 or email at icenter@umich.edu.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), call 734-764-8312, email caps-uofm@umich.edu or visit caps.umich.edu.

Faculty and Staff Counseling and Consultation Office (FASCCO), call (734) 936-8660, email fascco@umich.edu or visit myumi.ch/6N53j

Michigan Medicine Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience, call 734-763-5409, email counseling@med.umich.edu or visit myumi.ch/qAPVQ.