1. Statement on the Douglas column

    December 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.