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, assistant professor of medicine, was the keynote speaker on Sunday at an annual event where new medical students are officially welcomed and given a white coat.
A video of some outgoing students was posted on social media and received over 11 million views.
Collier did not reference abortion in her remarks, but she shared her views on social media and in interviews.
“Clinging to a vision of feminism that fights for the rights of all women and girls, especially those who are most vulnerable. I cannot but 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 newcomers, had urged the university to drop Collier as a lecturer.
Spokeswoman Mary Masson said the university “does not revoke an invitation to a speaker based on personal beliefs.”
The ceremony “is not a platform for discussing controversial issues,” and Collier “never planned to address a controversial topic as part of his remarks,” Masson said.
Collier did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Dr. Joseph Kolars, senior associate dean, said Collier was nominated to speak by members of a medical student honor society. He told the audience that she was an “extremely popular teacher and doctor”.
During her address on Sunday, Collier offered philosophical advice for students on how to thrive in medical school. She began by noting “the deep wounds our community has suffered over the past few weeks”, apparently a reference to the controversy over her appearance.
“We have a lot of work to do for the healing to happen,” Collier said.
The petition signed by his detractors said it was not “simply a disagreement over a personal opinion”.
“Through our demand, we stand in solidarity against groups that attempt to suppress human rights and restrict medical care,” students said of abortion rights.