In the wake of national uproar over the decision by the University of Michigan to cancel a screening of “American Sniper,” campus leaders late Wednesday completely reversed that call, announcing the film will be shown at its originally scheduled time and location.
“It was a mistake to cancel the showing of the movie ‘American Sniper’ on campus as part of a social event for students,” University of Michigan vice president for student life E. Royster Harper stated. “The initial decision to cancel the movie was not consistent with the high value the University of Michigan places on freedom of expression and our respect for the right of students to make their own choices in such matters.”
She went on to state the movie will be shown as originally planned on campus this Friday.
The Tuesday decision to cancel the blockbuster’s viewing by the Center for Campus Involvement, which schedules student activities, was prompted by a “collective letter” of concern signed by nearly 300 students and campus community members who said the film stereotyped Muslims.
The letter claimed the film “not only tolerates, but promotes anti-Muslim and anti-MENA [Middle Eastern and North African] rhetoric and sympathizes with a mass killer.” The letter also called Chris Kyle – the U.S. Navy SEAL at the center of the movie – a racist.
With that, the center said the movie “made students feel unsafe,” and replaced it with Paddington Bear, a PG-movie about the misadventures of a stuffed animal.
“While our intent was to show a film, the impact of the content was harmful, and made students feel unsafe and unwelcomed at our program,” center officials had said Tuesday. “We have elected to pull the film from this week’s program and screen another movie in its place that we believe better creates the fun, engaging atmosphere we seek, without excluding valued members of our community.”
After news of the decision spread, the university was hit with extensive backlash on Michigan-based and national online outlets.
What’s more, a petition by conservative students on campus calling for the movie to be reinstated was also launched, and garnered roughly 550 signatures by the day’s end. Even beloved Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh tweeted out “Michigan Football will watch ‘American Sniper!’ Proud of Chris Kyle & Proud to be an American …”