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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 difficult topics.

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 Services)


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