Dozens of University of Michigan medical students walked out of a weekend ceremony to protest a speaker who publicly opposes abortion rights.
Dr. Kristin Collier, an assistant professor of medicine, was the keynote speaker Sunday at an annual event where new medical students are formally welcomed and given a white lab coat.
A video of some students walking out was posted to social media and has received more than 11 million views.
Collier didn’t refer to abortion in her remarks, but she has shared her opinions on social media and in interviews.
“Holding on to a view of feminism where one fights for the rights of all women and girls, especially those who are most vulnerable. I can’t not lament the violence directed at my prenatal sisters in the act of abortion, done in the name of autonomy,” she said on social media earlier this year.
A petition signed by 340 medical students, including some of the new ones, had urged the university to drop Collier as a speaker.
Spokeswoman Mary Masson said the university “does not revoke an invitation to a speaker based on their personal beliefs.”
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The ceremony “is not a platform for discussion of controversial issues,” and Collier “never planned to address a divisive topic as part of her remarks,” Masson said.
Collier didn’t immediately respond to a Monday request for comment.
Dr. Joseph Kolars, a senior associate dean, said Collier was nominated to speak by members of a medical school student honor society. He told the audience that she is an “enormously popular teacher and physician.”
During her address Sunday, Collier offered philosophical advice to students about how to thrive in medical school. She opened by noting “the deep wounds our community has suffered over the past several weeks,” apparently a reference to the controversy over her appearance.
“We have a great deal of work to do for healing to occur,” Collier said.
The petition signed by her critics said it wasn’t “simply a disagreement on personal opinion.”
“Through our demand we are standing up in solidarity against groups who are trying to take away human rights and restrict medical care,” students said of abortion rights.