Conservative U-M students allege university is anti-Donald Trump

Several hundred conservative University of Michigan students have signed an online petition claiming the university's top leadership, including President Mark Schlissel, is anti-Donald Trump.

The petition specifically cites Schlissel's comments at a large post-election vigil on Nov. 9. At that rally, Schlissel noted that the campus went overwhelmingly for Clinton. "Ninety percent of you rejected the kind of hate and the fractiousness and the longing for some sort of idealized version of a nonexistent yesterday," he told the crowd, according to a video of the event posted online by the Michigan Daily, the campus newspaper.

The petition had 327 signatures as of 3:30 p.m. Monday and included more than 50 pages of personal statements.

"Remember that we all have the same greater goal of making our country the very best it can be for everyone, we just have different opinions on the path to get there," one writer, who identified themselves as a female U-M junior wrote. "But it is not okay to hate people and call names because they voted differently, and it is not okay to condone it. If we continue to do so, it won't be Trump that brings the eventual demise of our country, it will be that kind of divisional mindset."

The petition comes as students at U-M and other campuses in Michigan and across the nation have been marching in protest of Trump being elected as president. Those students say they feel unsafe and threatened by Trump's comments about minorities and women.

Prominent conservative activist and U-M student Grant Strobl signed the petition, writing: "I’m not even safe at my own home.”

"Tonight I heard students yelling “F*** you Grant Strobl” outside my apartment. This is among countless issues with students who are empowered by the liberal political machine of the university through their several ‘statements.’ Shame on the university for picking a viewpoint and discouraging intellectual diversity."

He told the Free Press Monday that Schlissel at the university-sponsored candlelight vigil "marginalized conservative students that supported Trump by saying that they voted for hate."

"Professors are cancelling exams and classes and holding often one-sided ‘discussions’ instead of teaching course material. None of this would have likely happened if Hillary had won," he said. “I hope the administration realizes that different viewpoints exist and those different viewpoints should not be marginalized by recent university initiatives. The $85 million dollar diversity plan is useless if the university can’t even recognize intellectual diversity after election day.”

Schlissel's speech was not anti-Trump, nor was the rally, U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.

"This was not anti-Trump rally," he wrote in an e-mail to the Free Press. "It was organized by students to bring all students together following a divisive election campaign. The Central Student Government president invited President Schlissel to be one of several speakers. Most of those who spoke at the rally were encouraging all students to come together and support each other."

Students who signed the petition were also upset with numerous messages sent out by email to the campus community following the election, including one yesterday, signed by Schlissel and other campus leaders.

The letter read, in part::

"We saw a threatening message painted on the rock near our campus; a student walking near campus was threatened with being lighted on fire because she wore a hijab; another student left his apartment to go to class and found a swastika with a message telling him to go home.  Some students have also been shouted at and accused of being racist because of their political views.

"Emotions are high all across the political spectrum. We hope all members of our community can agree that we must not stand silent while facing expressions of bigotry, discrimination or hate that have become part of our national political discourse. Only by speaking out against personal attacks, hate and threats can we move on to have the discussions that will be necessary for our campus and our nation to reach its full potential.

"We do not seek to suppress political speech or ongoing debate of key issues. Rather, we are asking everyone to reject hate and bigotry and to provide personal support for one another. People of widely varying ideologies have expressed this idea, and we are confident that it represents the ideals of the vast majority of our community."

That letter includes various resources available to students to "help them report or address episodes of bias and hate in the campus community during what is a difficult time for many."

Students in the online petition say the university would not be doing the same if Clinton won and Trump supporters were gathering.

"The most troubling thing for me is the double standard that exists," an anonymous student wrote. "Undoubtedly, Trump supporters would have been expected to respectfully accept the outcome of the electron if HRC was elected. Now that Trump has won, HRC supporters are not doing what they would have expected from us if the results were different. If Trump supporters gathered to 'mourn' the election results, it would have been called a gathering of 'racists' and 'bigots.'

"I support Trump because I believe in Republican policies, which I believe can fix our broken healthcare system, improve foreign relationships, and appoint a Supreme Court Justice that will uphold the Constitution. The polarization of Trump supporters is what perpetuated a Trump victory and will continue to do so until the HRC supporters, the media, and public institutions—like The University of Michigan—work towards solving problems productively, not by mourning an election with an unexpected outcome."

Rachel Neumann, a U-M graduate student who signed the petition, agrees.

"The #NotMyCampus petition is community organizing at its best," she told the Free Press. "It is a peaceful, civilized and respectful means for students to communicate to university officials. Too often politically conservative students sit quietly in class out of fear and intimidation by our professors, classmates, and university administration.  The fact that President Schlissel took a direct attack on conservative students at the candlelight vigil by saying we are hateful was too far. With the university placing such an emphasis on an inclusive campus, we want to make sure they become more accepting of diverse political views and in the future refrain from censorship of thought."

Contact David Jesse: 313-222-8851 or djesse@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter: @reporterdavidj

Detroit Free Press


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