Schlissel, Charlton e-mail student body over anti-Islam chalkings

Friday, April 8, 2016 - 6:01pm

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel and Central Student Government President Cooper Charlton responded to recent anti-Islam chalkings on the Diag in an e-mail to all University of Michigan students Friday.

Schlissel and Charlton wrote that the potentially harmful nature of these messages is contrary to the values of the University, but also noted that the messages are protected legally under the University’s free speech policy.

The University’s Standard Practice Guide protects the artistic or verbal expression of opinions on campus within the scope of federal and state law, even in the face of beliefs that a message is “pernicious, false or or any other way detestable”.

“We stand together against hate.” Schlissel and Charlton’s e-mail stated.  “While we also recognize that messages – however hurtful – can be protected legally and under policies that include our Freedom of Speech and Artistic Expression, the anti-Islam messages were inconsistent with the university’s values of respect, civility and equality. Targeted attacks against groups of people are hateful and serve only to tear apart our university community.”

After the chalkings, which also included pro-Trump messages, students filed reports to both the University Police and the University’s bias response teams, both of which came to the scene. Students also grouped together to wash off the chalkings.

In an interview with the Daily Friday, Charlton said he thought student safety should be the focus of University policy.

“I hope to find ourselves as a community where a procedure is not needed to address events of hate as we work to increase students safety,” Charlton said. “That being said, I wish to see a support community that helps us shift campus culture toward compassion and civil discourse”

The e-mail is Schlissel’s second response to the incident — on March 31, a few days after the chalkings, he released a statement calling on the University community to “stand together against hate”.

University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald emphasized Friday the importance of affirming the University's stance on hate speech, particularly on a college campus.

“It is important that we recognize everyone’s differences, and their different points of view, and yet be respectful of each other, even when we may disagree with a particular point of view,” he said.”

Students on the Diag the day after the incident, who washed off the chalkings, told the Daily at the time that they felt the University hadn’t done enough to help students address the issue.

“It’s irresponsible of the administration that we are actually out here with buckets of water and napkins to clean off these hateful messages and the administration isn’t taking care of it,” Rackham student Banen Al-Sheemary said. “And not only is the administration not taking care of it, they are putting us through a really difficult process. That perpetuates these really racist and hateful stereotypes that turn into violence and turn into students of color feeling unsafe on campus.”

The message also included a list of resources that are available to students struggling with the ramifications of the anti-Islamic messages.  The resources included the University Counseling and Psychological Services, Bias Response Team, the Dean Students Office, the student-led peer support program, Wolverine Support Network, and SafeRide.