(National Review) Incoming University of Michigan Medical School students staged a walkout of the school’s White Coat Ceremony Sunday to protest the choice of a pro-life doctor as the ceremony’s keynote speaker.
Students had previously attempted to pressure the administration to cancel the speech of Dr. Kristin Collier, a pro-life assistant professor of medicine at the university; they submitted a petition claiming that the choice of her as a speaker made them “doubt whether the school will continue to advocate for reproductive rights.”
However, the school’s dean, Dr. Marschall Runge, refused to disinvite her, citing the “critical importance of diversity of personal thought and ideas, which is foundational to academic freedom and excellence.”
“I want to acknowledge the deep wounds our community has suffered over the past several weeks,” said Collier as she began her speech, which was not about abortion, apparently referencing the controversy.
“We have a great deal of work to do for healing to occur,” 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 with the goal of welcoming them into one of the greatest vocations that exist on this earth.”
Incoming medical students walk out at University of Michigan’s white coat ceremony as the keynote speaker is openly anti-abortion pic.twitter.com/Is7KmVV811
— Scorpiio (@PEScorpiio) July 24, 2022
But some students were apparently not ready to do that, as they walked out of Hill Auditorium, the ceremony’s venue, as soon as Collier was introduced.
On its face, this collective decision by many of the incoming students is inappropriate for civil society and academia. Whenever one of these incidents occurs, we rightfully lament the damage it does to academic freedom.
Collier’s speech was not political at all, nor was it planned to be. She did not talk about abortion or praise the overturning of Roe v. Wade. She simply gave advice to the students before they entered their profession.
Students wanted to cancel her simply because publicly expressed pro-life beliefs. They could not stand to hear from a speaker with whom they disagreed, even when she was not espousing her views to them.
We should certainly be concerned about the state of our universities and campus cancel culture, but this incident should mean a lot more. The White Coat Ceremony is a rite of passage for new medical students. The giving of the coat symbolizes their entry into the medical profession and their readiness to take on the duties that come with it.