The situation went down this past Sunday, just before the keynote speaker, Dr. Kristin Collier, an assistant professor at the university, took to the stage to deliver her speech.
Footage shows an array of the university’s newly matriculated medical students, donning their stunning white coats, exiting the ceremony en masse just before Collier began speaking.
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
This response to Collier is related to her anti-abortion views, which she has openly shared on social media and during an interview with The Pillar, a Catholic newsletter.
holding on to a view of feminism where one fights for the rights of all women and girls, especially those who are most vulnerable. I can’t not lament the violence directed at my prenatal sisters in the act of abortion, done in the name of autonomy.
— Kristin Collier (@KristinCollie20) May 4, 2022
“While we support the rights of freedom of speech and religion, an anti-choice speaker as a representative of the University of Michigan undermines the University’s position on abortion and supports the nonuniversal, theology-rooted platform to restrict abortion access, an essential part of medical care,” the petition reads.
“This is not simply a disagreement on opinion; through our demand we are standing up in solidarity against groups who are trying to take away human rights and restrict medical care,” the petition continues. “We demand that UM stands in solidarity with us and selects a speaker whose values align with institutional policies, students, and the broader medical community. This speaker should inspire the next generation of health care providers to be courageous advocates for patient autonomy and our communities.”
However, in spite of the outcry, the university refused to go back on its decision.
“The University of Michigan does not revoke an invitation to a speaker based on their personal beliefs,” Mary Masson, a spokesperson for UM Medical, wrote in an email, according to The Michigan Daily. “However, the White Coat Ceremony will not be used as a forum to air personal political or religious beliefs; it will focus on welcoming students into the profession of medicine.”
Masson reportedly also pointed out that Collier had been recognized by the Gold Humanism Honor Society for her medical qualifications, suggesting that her professional work outweighed her personal views. Her broader professional work was also acknowledged by NPR.
With the university deciding to double-down on keeping Collier as the keynote speaker, the incoming class of UM medical students boldly took the matter into their own hands.
University of Michigan medical students walked out after receiving their white doctor’s coats in protest of an anti-abortion keynote speaker. https://t.co/4ThDKVi0Fb
— NPR (@NPR) July 25, 2022
Collier recently defended the students’ right to walk out of the ceremony, saying that “everyone has a right to stand up for what they believe in.”
i know there are various thoughts about what happened at the white coat ceremony, @UMichMedAdmiss but I’ve heard that some of the students who walked out have been harassed and targeted —please stop. everyone has a right to stand up for what they believe in
— Kristin Collier (@KristinCollie20) July 26, 2022
What do you think about the students’ walkout?