University of Michigan president pens letter to Jewish community following antisemitic incident off-campus

Fliers were distributed in off-campus neighborhoods in Ann Arbor

University of Michigan flag seen behind trees in Ann Arbor.

ANN ARBOR – University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman wrote a letter expressing solidarity for the university’s Jewish community after antisemitic fliers were placed on porches and driveways in off-campus neighborhoods on Sunday.

The fliers were placed ahead of the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

“While the fliers were posted off campus and, to our knowledge, did not target individual U-M members, their odious messages were designed to undermine the sense of psychological safety that all members of our community deserve,” wrote Coleman.

The group reportedly named on the leaflets is GDL, short for Goyim Defense League. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the extremist group has so far distributed propaganda in 17 states this year.

“GDL espouses vitriolic antisemitism and white supremacist themes via the internet, through propaganda distributions and in street actions,” reads ADL’s website.

Coleman’s letter is co-signed by the university’s Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer.

Read the full letter below:

We are reaching out to the university’s Jewish community to express my support and solidarity in the wake of antisemitic fliers posted in neighborhoods bordering our campus. We deeply regret that members of our Jewish community have had to cope with the effects of these hateful and cowardly acts, especially at the start of the Rosh Hashanah observance.

We share your collective disappointment and anger at these actions. They do not reflect U-M’s values and our efforts to cultivate a community that embraces diversity, inclusion, and a culture where all experience a sense of belonging.

While the fliers were posted off campus and, to our knowledge, did not target individual U-M members, their odious messages were designed to undermine the sense of psychological safety that all members of our community deserve.

These actions also provide a moment to consider how we will define and live our norms for civil engagement. Free speech is a strongly held value at U-M and one we believe is core to a democratic society. This means that we may encounter forms of expression that we find offensive or abhorrent. But that does not mean we must accept it passively or equate all free speech as appropriate, even if it is not prohibited.

Our own free speech rights also allow us to call out some expressions as antisemitic, racist, and xenophobic when they cross the line from contested ideas to attacks on humanity. This weekend’s fliers were unequivocally antisemitic.

The message we want all to hear is that the University of Michigan stands with its Jewish students, faculty, staff, and Ann Arbor neighbors. There is no place for hate on our campus or in our community.

Sincerely,

Mary Sue Coleman, President

Laurie K. McCauley, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Tabbye M. Chavous, Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer


About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.