The University of Michigan defended a column written by Communications Department Chair Susan Douglas detailing her “hate” for Republicans, saying it was protected under the university’s “faculty freedom of expression” core value, but noted that it was working “vigilantly” to ensure Michigan students can express differing views “without fear of reprisal.”
On Thursday, Michigan university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald responded to Douglas’ article, saying that the anti-Republican views expressed in the hostile piece “are those of the individual faculty member and not those of the University of Michigan,” but that it was absolutely protected under the university’s freedom of expression guidelines:
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.
Douglas’ article, titled “We Can’t All Just Get Along: In our era of polarization, one party is guiltier than the other,” begins by proclaiming her hatred for the “legions of blowhards” in the GOP who deny global warming, thwart immigration reform, and fight for the personhood of unborn children:
I hate Republicans. I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal “personhood.”
Michigan students have responded negatively to the “blatant intolerance” conveyed by the department chair:
“This is blatant intolerance,” said the chairman of the university’s Young American for Freedom chapter, “and the university should take action on the behalf of intellectual diversity and all of the students who are intimidated into silence.”
Douglas—who says that since writing the letter, she’s been the victim of threats to her personal safety—issued a follow-up response Thursday. In the statement she explained that the title wasn’t her idea and that despite the scathing criticism she levels at Republican “blowhards,” her real intention was to bemoan “the rise of political animus in our country”:
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.