UM students condemn Schlissel's anti-Trump statements

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Hundreds of students at the University of Michigan have signed a #NotMyCampus petition condemning university president Mark Schlissel for comments he made at a somber vigil last week following President-elect Donald Trump's surprise victory.

"Your voices worked out to be a 90/10 decision in favor of the unsuccessful candidate yesterday," Schlissel said in footage posted to Youtube by The Michigan Daily, the campus newspaper. "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 that was expressed during (Trump's) campaign."

Rick Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the university, said Monday afternoon that Schlissel "responded to the student who sent the petition to him, offering to meet with her to further discuss her concerns.

"Additionally, President Schlissel and many others on our campus -- administrators, faculty and students -- have consistently called for the respectful discussion of ideas, Fitzgerald said.

But more than 320 students signed a petition by Monday afternoon and submitted nearly 50 pages of personal statements, many calling out Schlissel for his comments.

"It is extraordinarily arrogant to assume that those who backed Trump are unequivocally supporting racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of hatred, yet that is exactly what Presidential Schlissel did," said Reebehl El-Hage, a senior in the college of engineering. "Instead of being introspective and asking why people voted for Trump, President Schlissel denounced them."

Others said their conservative opinions -- and their votes for Trump -- have left them excluded on what is billed as an inclusive campus.

"The inclusion our president speaks of seems to be only applicable to those who share his same opinions," said Patricia Sholtis, a senior in the Ross School of Business. "For those of us who don’t share in those beliefs, we are told and shown that we do not matter and our opinions should not be heard."

In the Michigan Daily video, students huddled in the darkened evening, clutching candles as Schlissel spoke. The university president said he remained "optimistic despite yesterday’s election results, that working together we really can build the kind of society that we all want."

That kind of language excluded students who do not believe in the same societal ideals pushed by Schlissel, petitioners said.

"I thought I was coming to a place open to all people from all walks of life with all ideas," freshman Lincoln Merrill said of his arrival to campus this fall. "It turns out that statement is true, but only if your ideals align with those the university imposed upon us."

A senior who spoke on the Michigan Daily video summarized the sadness among campus Clinton supporters who attended the vigil last week.

"This is such a hard day because the person we advocated against won," said Tina Al-khersan. "So how do you continue, how do you keep going forward, how do you study, how do you to class, when what you’ve been trying so hard to fight against just won?

"And I hear a lot of people who are sad are taking the day off and I think that’s needed and that’s healthy," Al-khersan said.

But many who signed the #NotMyCampus petition accused UM leadership of encouraging a double standard favoring liberal students by offering counseling sessions and other services for students overwhelmed by the election result.

"I find it very unprofessional of Mark Schlissel to provide so many services to the people who supported Hillary Clinton, when I have a strong feeling the same services would not be provided to Donald Trump supporters if he had lost the race," said Mitchell Brown, a freshman. "The amount of fear, intimidation, and hatred going around campus right now towards supporters of Donald Trump is not acceptable. I find it extremely irresponsible that this has not yet been addressed."

Brown then shared an anecdote about speaking with a friend about their support for Trump. The pair were overheard and publicly called racists, Brown said.

"My point is, if you want The University of Michigan to remain the #1 public school in the United States, you may want to address these issues instead of encouraging them and standing alongside members of only one part of this amazing community," Brown said.

The petition came on the heels of nationwide rallies against Trump's victory. Many protesters have gathered in Michigan, prompting Gov. Rick Snyder to issue a call for order, civility, and respect for the democratic process.

Last week, about 2,000 Trump protesters rallied in Grand Rapids while an estimated 1,000 demonstrators stormed the Michigan State University campus. Many barricaded themselves in the university’s administration building as police barred the doors, preventing more people from entering the building.

Trump critics have likened the president-elect and his supporters to fascists, racists and Nazis after a Ku Klux Klan publication last week endorsed the New York businessman, something his campaign quickly condemned.

Protests also have erupted across the nation because of the president-elect’s proposals to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and temporarily ban Muslim immigrants from entering the country.

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