Campus official: ‘The movie will be shown at the originally scheduled time and location’
In the wake of national uproar over the decision by the University of Michigan to cancel a screening of “American Sniper,” campus leaders late Wednesday completely reversed that call, announcing the film will be shown at its originally scheduled time and location.
“It was a mistake to cancel the showing of the movie ‘American Sniper’ on campus as part of a social event for students,” University of Michigan vice president for student life E. Royster Harper stated. “The initial decision to cancel the movie was not consistent with the high value the University of Michigan places on freedom of expression and our respect for the right of students to make their own choices in such matters.”
She went on to state the movie will be shown as originally planned on campus this Friday.
The Tuesday decision to cancel the blockbuster’s viewing by the Center for Campus Involvement, which schedules student activities, was prompted by a “collective letter” of concern signed by nearly 300 students and campus community members who said the film stereotyped Muslims.
The letter claimed the film “not only tolerates, but promotes anti-Muslim and anti-MENA [Middle Eastern and North African] rhetoric and sympathizes with a mass killer.” The letter also called Chris Kyle – the U.S. Navy SEAL at the center of the movie – a racist.
With that, the center said the movie “made students feel unsafe,” and replaced it with Paddington Bear, a PG-movie about the misadventures of a stuffed animal.
“While our intent was to show a film, the impact of the content was harmful, and made students feel unsafe and unwelcomed at our program,” center officials had said Tuesday. “We have elected to pull the film from this week’s program and screen another movie in its place that we believe better creates the fun, engaging atmosphere we seek, without excluding valued members of our community.”
After news of the decision spread, the university was hit with extensive backlash on Michigan-based and national online outlets.
What’s more, a petition by conservative students on campus calling for the movie to be reinstated was also launched, and garnered roughly 550 signatures by the day’s end. Even beloved Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh tweeted out “Michigan Football will watch ‘American Sniper!’ Proud of Chris Kyle & Proud to be an American …”
Michigan Football will watch “American Sniper”! Proud of Chris Kyle & Proud to be an American & if that offends anybody then so be it!
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) April 9, 2015
Initially, as a result of the uproar, the Center for Campus Involvement issued a tweet Wednesday mid-morning stating “we are planning to show American Sniper in a separate forum that provides an appropriate space for dialogue and reflection. More info to come.”
We’re planning to show American Sniper in a separate forum that provides an appropriate space for dialogue & reflection. More info to come.
— Campus Involvement (@UMInvolvement) April 8, 2015
That announcement was also somewhat reversed by campus leaders late Wednesday.
“We recognize, however, that some students are uncomfortable with the content of the movie, and appreciate that concern,” Harper stated. “Therefore, the university also will show an alternative movie, ‘Paddington,’ in another location on campus at that same time and date to provide our students with additional options that evening.”
Some on campus have speculated the decision to go ahead and show “American Sniper” was an attempt to appease students, faculty, donors and others who expressed dismay over its cancellation.
“If the university prevents a movie like this from being shown, it promotes intolerance and stifles dialogue and debate on the subject and goes directly against the atmosphere UMix purports to provide,” the conservative students’ petition stated. “As adults at a public university, we should have the option to view this movie if we so choose and have the opportunity to engage on the topics it presents to come to our own conclusions on the subjects.”
“American Sniper was not political,” Samuel Fuchs, a student who signed the petition, told The College Fix. “There was no mention of whether Chris Kyle supported the war or opposed it. … I hope that common sense prevails and that people open their eyes to honor an American hero who suffered from PTSD but did everything he could to return to combat for his family, friends and country.”
However, some students expressed doubt that the immediate backlash was the cause of the University of Michigan’s decision to screen the movie.
University of Michigan student Lamees Mekkaoui, who originally spread the letter asking the university to cancel the film, called the rival petition “completely and utterly moot” to The College Fix in an e-mail.
She went on to say that, “No one’s freedom of speech was infringed upon. It was just completely inappropriate for a fun and inclusive UMix event. There is a stark contrast between Paddington and American Sniper.”