Susan J. Douglas: 'I hate Republicans'
Editor's Note: Professor Susan J. Douglas released a statement to the media Dec. 18. This story has been updated to include her response at the end of this story.
Professor Susan J. Douglas, a department chair at the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and Arts, wrote a column this week for the liberal website inthesetimes.com entitled, ‘It’s Okay To Hate Republicans.’
Douglas, who is chair of the Communications Studies program, opened her article with the line, “I hate Republicans.”
The article includes a photo of three U.S. Senators who are Republicans, with the caption, “It’s okay to despise these men.”
Douglas, whose university pay was $178,786 last year, did not respond to a request seeking comment.
“We see this as a free speech issue,” said Rick Fitzgerald, spokesman for the University of Michigan.
Leon Drolet, chair of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, said employers have a right to determine what type of conduct they expect from their employees.
But Drolet said the University of Michigan has to make sure their mission is not compromised by an extremist.
“Their very mission is to create an environment that facilitates learning through an exchange of ideas,” Drolet said. “She is a detriment to the University because she hates and encourages others to hate University students who disagree with her political views. Many students in that department will feel intimidated and reluctant to express their views on politics, policy and society because a University official has announced she will hate them for it.”
Drolet compared the to situation of Omar Mahmood, a U-M student who wrote a recent column for the Michigan Daily campus newspaper mocking political correctness.
Mahmood wrote satirically about being left-handed and feeling discriminated against. That column led to his leaving a position as columnist at the publication, whose editors explained that a column "mocking minorities" was wrong because it “violated our values and integrity.”
There are reports that Mahmood has been harassed and his apartment vandalized on campus.
In a similar incident at Michigan State University, Professor William Penn was removed from his teaching assignments in the fall of 2013 after an anti-GOP rant by him was caught on tape. Penn said Republicans are old people with "dead skin cells washing off them" who "raped" the United States to get "everything out of it they possibly could." Penn threatened any student who he said might be a closet racist and told the class, "I am a college professor. If I found out you are a closet racist, I am coming after you." He was eventually reassigned the next semester.
In 2012, Douglas moderated an event that was accused of violating University of Michigan policies prohibiting the use of school resources to advertise a partisan event. The "non-partisan" event was called “The Republican War on Women.” When Dr. Robert Steele, a candidate for the U-M Regents, raised questions about the title of the event, it was amended by adding a question mark to the statement: “The Republican War on Women?” The panel included three liberal writers and no Republicans.
“I’m not sure where ‘hate’ has anything to do with disagreeing on policies,” Steele said Wednesday.
In 2008, Ron Weiser, former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, donated $10 million to a division of the same U-M college that employs Douglas, called the International Institute.
State taxpayers appropriated $321.7 million in direct aid for the University of Michigan in 2014.
Professor Douglas' response:
Statement by Prof. Susan J. Douglas
Dec. 18, 2014
In the January 2015 issue of In These Times, I wrote an article titled “We Can’t All Just Get Along,” bemoaning the rise of political animus in our country. The magazine then, without my knowledge or approval, changed the title for the online version to “It’s Okay to Hate Republicans.” This title inaccurately represents the main point of the article and suggests an advocacy position I do not hold.
While I had nothing to do with it, I regret the implications this title has for my university and especially for our students. I have asked the magazine to change the title back to what it was and to issue a disclaimer that I never knew about nor approved the online title.
I opened the article with “I hate Republicans.” Then I noted how I used to work for a Republican politician whom I adored. I used this rhetorical flourish, in fact, to hold myself up as an example of how really bad our political climate has gotten and how so many of us have gotten locked into fixed political positions. The article’s main point is to bemoan this situation.
It is precisely my commitment as a teacher to welcome and encourage all points of view in my classrooms that I am so concerned about climates of intolerance. Thus I especially regret any suggestion I may have conveyed that some students are not welcome or would find a hostile environment in my classrooms. I have been, and remain, dedicated to creating a classroom environment in which diverse opinions are welcomed, exchanged and discussed.
Susan J. Douglas
Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor and Chair
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor
Department of Communication Studies
University of Michigan