A University professor drew criticism and calls for her resignation after she penned a column on Wednesday originally titled online as “It’s Okay to Hate Republicans” for the non-profit magazine In These Times.
Communications Prof. Susan J. Douglas, who is also the chair of the department, wrote the column as a personal narrative on her experiences with the Republican Party and what she has taken away from them.
As of Thursday afternoon, the article title had been changed to “We Can’t All Just Get Along”.
In an email Thursday afternoon, Joel Bleifuss, In These Times editor and publisher, said the title change reflected the title Douglas originally submitted as well as what ran in the print version of the magazine. An Editor’s Note on the change is now affixed to the piece.
“This article was originally titled “We Can’t All Just Get Along” in the print version of the magazine,” the note reads. “The title was then changed, without the author’s knowledge or approval, to ‘It’s Okay to Hate Republicans.’ The author rejects the online title as not representative of the piece or its main points. Her preferred title has been restored.”
Also Thursday afternoon, in a statement released through the University, Douglas said she had not seen or approved the online title.
“This title inaccurately represents the main point of the article and suggests an advocacy position I do not hold,” the statement read. “While I had nothing to do with it, I regret the implications this title has for my university and especially for our students.”
“I hate Republicans,” Douglas opened the column. “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.’”
She noted that she used to work for a Republican and even considered the notion of marrying one, but said the party’s renewed focus on social conservatism has alienated her.
“According to researchers, the two core dimensions of conservative thought are resistance to change and support for inequality,” she wrote. “These, in turn, are core elements of social intolerance. The need for certainty, the need to manage fear of social change, lead to black-and-white thinking and an embrace of stereotypes.”
In a Facebook post Wednesday, University Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R) called the article both “troubling and offensive”.
“The University of Michigan community rightly supports and defends a wide variety of viewpoints and a diversity of opinion on all subjects,” she wrote. “But this particular column, which expresses and condones hatred toward an entire segment of individuals in our society based solely on their political views, fails to observe an equally important value of our University — respect for the right of others to hold views contrary to our own. Professor Douglass’s column ill-serves the most basic values of a University community.”
At Thursday’s monthly Board of Regents meeting, several other regents also addressed the article and Douglas’s statement, echoing similar sentiments.
“I think this article was over the top,” said Regent Andrew Richner (R-Grosse Pointe Park). “I believe that the University must foster an environment of tolerance and respect.”
Regent Laurence Deitch (D-Bloomfield Hills) added that people have the right to say what they please, but it was also important to be aware of the impact their comments have on the community. He called Douglas’s remarks both “stupid and thoughtless.”
The piece also drew ire from the state Republican Party.
“(The) piece by Professor Susan J. Douglas is ugly and full of hatred and it should not be tolerated,” the state GOP tweeted early Thursday morning.
In response to the criticism, the University released a statement Wednesday night affirming that the University encourages a wide range of opinions on campus.
“The views expressed are those of the individual faculty member and not those of the University of Michigan,” the statement read. “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.”
Campus political groups had a range of responses to the controversy.
LSA freshman Grant Strobl, chair of the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, said in an interview Thursday morning that on an institutional level, the piece concerned him.
“I was disappointed because I believe that the University has a very good trademark of ‘give it, get it: expect respect,’ ” Strobl said. “I didn’t feel that that professor was respecting other viewpoints that many students on campus hold.”
LSA senior Trevor Dolan, chair of the University’s chapter of the College Democrats, said he understood Douglas’s frustrations with the GOP but didn’t think she conveyed those frustrations in a productive way.
“I think it’s important for professors who want to maintain their political credibility, and want to continue to be able to teach students of all political backgrounds to — not necessarily keep these thoughts to themselves, but definitely not publish them so widely,” he said.
He added that he didn’t think the article would bring great progress to Douglas’s cause.
“I’m not sure I would say that it’s OK to hate Republicans,” he said. “I definitely think that bipartisan compromise is important and articles like this are definitely detrimental to any opportunities to work with the other side of the aisle.”
In the end, Strobl said, what he would like to see from the University is more open conversation about campus climate.
“At the University, we’re all about diversity, all about tolerance, but we have to make sure it’s applied to everybody,” he said. “And I think that’s something we should have a serious discussion about regarding both faculty and students.”
Daily News Editor Shoham Geva contributed to this report.
The article has been updated to include the comments of members of the Board of Regents at their monthly meeting Thursday.