Challenging viewpoints

October 16, 2008

Dear Members of the Campus Community:

Our campus community has been challenged over the past few days as a result of the activities of several individuals who are not affiliated in any way with the University.

As many of you are aware, while stationed outside of Halle Library, these individuals have proceeded to express their views on a variety of subjects. Some of these comments have been both hurtful and offensive to many members of the campus community. Students, faculty and staff have expressed concern that the activities of these individuals are not consistent with the values of the University that seek to promote an appreciation of human diversity and the maintenance of an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect.

While I share the concerns that  many of you have expressed, I must also note with great pride that the University,as a public institution of higher education, is strongly committed and legally obligated to promote and protect the rights of all individuals to engage in free and open debate on campus, however controversial the subject area.

As many of you may be aware, individuals expressing similar views have for a number of years annually visited our campus as well as many other college campuses within Michigan and the region. When students, faculty and staff encounter these individuals this week or in the future, one option is to avoid any invitation to engage in dialogue or to stop and create an audience if you disagree with their views.

Please note that the University's Public Safety Department and other campus officials have been and will continue to monitor this situation on site to ensure that there are no violations of the law and to protect the safety of our students. Finally, I am asking Provost Loppnow to organize an educational campus forum about the issues that this event has raised so we can all learn from this moment on our campus. In the past, university communities came together to have "teach-ins" that educated and provided the opportunity to express different points of view.

Susan W. Martin