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Attempts to cancel pro-life keynote speaker flop, dean makes it clear that the school “would not revoke a speaker because they have different personal ideas than others”

by | Jul 25, 2022

By Dave Andrusko

Some—“a dozen” or “several dozen,” according to media reports–of the incoming University of Michigan Medical School students walked out to express their displeasure with the school’s decision to have Dr. Kristin Collier be the keynote speaker at “white coat day” which mark the start of medical school.

The irony is that Dr. Collier, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, and the director of UM Medical School’s Program on Health, Spirituality and Religion, was once a self-described pro-choice atheist. Now she is a “committed Christian and avowedly pro-life.”

Here’s the back story, as provided by Josh Christenson, that culminated in Sunday’s walkout:

More than 300 students, alumni, and physicians, had petitioned to bar University of Michigan Medical School professor Dr. Kristin Collier from giving the keynote address at the school’s annual white coat ceremony. Some students walked out when she took the stage, and others hung a banner from the auditorium’s balcony that read: “Bans Off Our Bodies. Abortion Rights Now.” No one interrupted. But other students defended Collier, and Dean Marschall Runge made it clear that the school “would not revoke a speaker because they have different personal ideas than others.”

“The White Coat Ceremony is not a platform for discussion of controversial issues, and Dr. Collier never planned to address a divisive topic as part of her remarks,” Dr. Runge wrote in the email, a copy of which was shared by Princeton professor Robert George on his blog. “Our values speak about honoring the critical importance of diversity of personal thought and ideas, which is foundational to academic freedom and excellence.”

Dr. William Chavey, a professor of family medicine who has taught for 25 years at the medical school, told the Free Beacon the petition to stop Collier from giving the speech “did not reflect who she is.”

“I suspect that the people who signed it don’t know Dr. Collier,” Chavey said. “She’s obviously been valued for her clinical skills, her educational skills, and her scholarship. To criticize or demean her for her opinion is narrow minded and inappropriate,” Richardson reported.

Dr. Collier did not talk about abortion. Instead “She simply encouraged students and parents and offered them advice on what to expect as they begin their careers in the healthcare field,” according to Lawrence Richard  of Fox News. “Ahead of the event, Collier thanked her supporters for encouraging her and helping her prepare for the speech.”

Medical Students For Choice (MSFC) had sent the petition to the entire student body. They said that Collier 

had made remarks on social media and in interviews that were “antithetical to the tenets of reproductive justice.” Having “an anti-choice speaker,” they said, would violate the university’s stance on abortion.

The signatories argued that allowing Collier to speak would also perpetuate “a pattern of disregarding an[d] actively silencing the  voice of students and members of our community.

But in an email responding to the student-led petition, Chavey noted 

the university’s stated commitment to “diversity” should have precluded “canceling Dr. Collier’s talk for her beliefs about abortion.”

“Dr. Collier’s views, described by MSFC as fringe, are shared by roughly half of the population,” Chavey wrote in a letter to the dean. “Current and entering medical students will encounter many patients and have numerous colleagues with whom they may disagree over this topic. They cannot all be canceled.”

Categories: Pro-Lifers