University of Michigan students stage walkout over lecturer’s anti-abortion views


As nearly 170 new medical students showed up at a University of Michigan auditorium on Sunday, some wondered how they were going to explain to their delighted parents that they were leaving the ritual marking the start of their studies.

Each member of the incoming class had their own calculation of whether to remain seated during the keynote speech by Kristin Collier, an openly anti-abortion healthcare provider, or join other students in a protest. peaceful. When the day came, around 70 people quietly rose from their seats and walked out as Collier took the stage – a dissent show a month later Roe vs. Wade was overthrown. A clip of the walkout quickly went viral, with a video viewed more than 15 million times Tuesday morning.

For some conservatives, the walkout was the latest example of a “cancel culture” on college campuses. For others, it was a welcome sign of young people defending a procedure now severely restricted in some states.

But for the students involved, it was an opportunity to defend one of the four pillars of medical ethics: autonomy.

“We saw an opportunity to use our positions as future doctors to advocate for and stand in solidarity with people whose rights to bodily autonomy and medical care are under threat,” organizers said in a statement to The Washington Post.

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A spokesperson for the University of Michigan said in a statement that Collier, the director of the medical school’s health, spirituality and religion program, was selected to deliver the keynote address “based on nominations and votes of medical students, house managers and faculty.”

Collier, who taught at the University of Michigan for 17 years, did not respond to a request for comment from The Post. The university spokesperson said Collier was not speaking to the media.

In a June interview with Catholic newsletter The Pillar, Collier detailed his “conversion into a pro-life person” after years of being secular and staunchly “pro-choice.” A month earlier, she posted on Twitter that she “cannot fail to lament the violence directed at my prenatal sisters in the act of abortion, done in the name of self-reliance.”

In his Sunday speech, Collier urged students to “get to know your patients as human beings, not just scanners, labs, chemistry, and data.” Although she didn’t explicitly mention abortion, she appeared to address the controversy, saying, “I want to acknowledge the deep wounds that our community has suffered over the past few weeks.

“We have a lot of work to do for the healing to happen,” she continued. “And I hope that for today, for this time, we can focus on what matters most – coming together to support our newly accepted students and their families in order to welcome them to one of the greatest vocations that exist on this earth.”

A student told the Post that after the Dobbs decision, having a speaker who expressed anti-abortion views “felt inappropriate and like a slap in the face.”

“She can have any opinion…but I think it’s in the professional sphere that you have to be objective, especially as health care providers,” added the student, who spoke under on condition of anonymity due to security concerns related to negative reactions. To go for a walk.

Before At the ceremony, the students created a poll to gauge whether they should take action. When around 91% of those polled said they were against or strongly against Collier speaking out, according to organizers, they created a petition to have her removed because the main speaker. They also offered to have a chat with Collier at a later date — but not in a ceremony considered a rite of passage in their field of study.

University officials, however, stood by their decision. Collier “never planned to address a divisive topic” at the ceremony, the statement said.

“The University of Michigan does not revoke an invitation to a speaker based on personal beliefs,” he added.

As the students prepared for the white coat ritual, some were planning their protest. They wore pins with abortion rights slogans at the ceremony, recited an additional line about patient rights to their statement of ideals, and then finally walked out.

“You could tell there was this overwhelming sense of pride in the air. They hadn’t known each other before, but there was kind of a big burst of relief when everyone came out and they were able to stick together. “said Brendan Scorpio, a Detroit-based social organizer who attended the ceremony and posted the clip of the walkout. “It was a very meaningful and powerful moment.”

The debate surrounding Collier’s speech is preceded by decades of culture clashes on college campuses, said Peter Cajka, who teaches in the American Studies department at the University of Notre Dame. The University of Michigan was known for the student activism it sparked in the 1960s.

“These culture-war type debates in universities erupted in the 1960s when the university became a more political space,” Cajka said.

More recently, Boston University students left a lecture in April featuring a conservative political commentator, the school newspaper reported. In 2017, senior Notre Dame graduates left their commencement ceremony when Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech.

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But Cajka sees a change in the clashes happening on campuses today. Politics is bleeding into historically apolitical fields, such as medicine, technology and science, he said. The catalyst for these protests often comes down to speakers seemingly embodying “the politics people are pushing against at times when said politics is at issue.”

“Without the Dobbs decision, does this speech even count? No,” he said of Collier’s commencement speech. “Because that person who’s pro-life, well, that’s normally just an opinion. But now it looks like he has or represents some political power.

Michigan is among the few states in the Midwest that still protect access to abortion, although the procedure is subject to restrictions.

Its flagship university and medical center “remain committed to providing safe, high-quality reproductive care to patients,” the University of Michigan said.

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