Conference and rally participants respectful, officials say
Above left, participants at the Second National Student Conference
on the Palestine Solidarity Movement browse information tables.
The conference, held in the Michigan League Oct. 1214, drew
400 participants including students from 70 universities.
Above right, protesters take a stand against the conference, and
in support of Israel and its policies. An additional 400 people
attended a rally on the Diag and a counter-conference in the Michigan
Union, with a somewhat smaller number protesting outside the LeagueUniversity
officials reported that the conference proceeded peacefully. Only
one small incident was reported when two men, not affiliated with
the University, got into a scuffle on the Diag and were removed
by campus police.
President Mary Sue Coleman, in a speech to the Senate Assembly
Monday, said she understood the "pain and anxiety" many felt about the conference.
But, she said, "If we are committed to free speech it must be an enduring
resolve, no matter how painful." Coleman praised student leaders for rising
to the occasion and working to encourage constructive dialogue about
Ed Willis, dean of students, said the weekend's events "drew people
with passionate beliefs about the situation in the Middle East," and that
"some of the language was sharp at times."
"In dozens of conversations ... I also heard an extraordinary depth of
understanding about international issues. I heard people debating
strongly held beliefs with civility and respect. What I did not hearnor did any
of my colleagues who were in attendance at all the activities of the
weekendwere any outbursts of hate speech or threats of violence," he said. "Our
students on all sides of this debate conducted themselves with maturity in
the face of tremendous outside pressure to behave rashly. They have earned
my admiration and respect."
The Michigan Student Assembly and Rackham Student Government passed resolutions
calling for respectful dialogue, and seeking to organize a campus-wide
effort "to educate students about divisive political issues
affecting the student body so that debate on our campus is informed,
relevant and tolerant." (Photos by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo