Updated [X 2!]: University of Michigan Cancels Showing of American Sniper Due to Student Protest; Shows Paddington Instead
Updated [April 9]! University administrators now say American Sniper will run tonight as originally planned. So will Paddington (whew). Details here.
Updated [April 8]! Replacement movie added below.
The University of Michigan's Center for Campus Involvement canceled a showing of American Sniper after 300 students protested, saying the film
not only tolerates but promotes anti-Muslim…rhetoric and sympathizes with a mass killer. Chris Kyle was a racist who took a disturbing stance on murdering Iraqi civilians…watching this movie is provocative and unsafe to…Muslim students who are too often reminded of how little the media and world values their lives.
This is (or was, anyway) a college, right, where learning and uncomfortable ideas are occassionally encountered?
At least the proactively offended students at least made a gesture toward intellectual freedom and free speech:
Although we respect the right to freedom of speech, we believe that with this right comes responsibility: responsibility of action, intention, and outcome….?
As U of M students, we ask you to please reconsider showing this movie in order to be a welcoming place to students of all backgrounds, ethnicities and religions. The University of Michigan should not participate in further perpetuating these negative and misleading stereotypes.
An immediate question arises: Why do the signatories assume that the audience will simply absorb whatever is presumed to be the offensive message of the movie's producers? The assumption that the audience is a lump, or a blank screen upon which an agenda in projected, goes unstated but is wrong and offensive. Audiences have minds of their own. For starters, wouldn't it be more interesting and effective to push for a viewing and a discussion of the film's apparent intentions and the audience's responses?
University officials confessed to their thought errors across social media, reports The College Fix.
"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," stated The Center for Campus Involvement, which oversees student activities and is run by university employees, as it announced its decision Tuesday on its various social media accounts, including Twitter and Facebook.
"We deeply regret causing harm to members of our community, and appreciate the thoughtful feedback provided to us by students and staff alike."
Let's leave aside whether American Sniper actually foments anti-Muslim sentiments or actions (Read Kurt Loder on its anti-war message and Charles Paul Freund on Iraqi audience responses here).
The idea that a college is an unfit arena in which to show a lauded and successful—if controversial—movie is mind-boggling to say the least. The urge to excise any sort of negative energy, thought, or feeling in and out of classrooms on campuses is widely and appallingly documented. But this latest petty capitulation on the part of feckless administrators to student demands for the ideological bubble-wrapping of education makes some of us remember when college was supposed to be a place to have conversations not stop them before they begin.
Update: I neglected to mention that American Sniper was replaced with Paddington.
@Mashon45 Paddington will be shown instead.
— Campus Involvement (@UMInvolvement) April 7, 2015
Updated April 9: Now comes news that, no, no, the university—generally regarded as one an outstanding academic institution—will now show American Sniper as planned. Via Foxnews.com:
University Vice President for Student Life E. Royster Harper called the decision to cancel the Friday night showing a "mistake" in a statement.
"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," Harper said. "The movie will be shown at the originally scheduled time and location."
And for all the students who wanted to see Paddington? They too will be made whole:
Harper added that the university will also screen the family-friendly film "Paddington" as an alternative.