Anti-Semitic Valentine's Day card sparks controversy; Ross issues statement condemning card's message
This story was updated at noon Thursday, Feb. 9.
Central Michigan University President George Ross issued a statement Thursday that criticized a Valentine's Day card handed out by a member of the College Republicans at CMU on Wednesday.
"We are deeply disappointed by last night's situation with a Valentine card containing an inappropriate sentiment that was produced during a student organization meeting," Ross said. "This is not who we are as a campus community."
Leaders from the president's and provost's offices, Office for Civil Rights and Institutional Equity (OCRIE), Office of Institutional Diversity (OID), Student Affairs, Student Activities and Involvement and the CMU Police Department met Thursday morning to discuss the situation and determine the next steps.
OCRIE has started a formal inquiry, while OID "will develop additional efforts for the campus community," Ross said.
Ross said the type of language, "while protected by the First Amendment, is unacceptable and is not consistent with our values and standards."
Ross said CMU "cautions against concluding that the action is representative of the entire student organization or its members" and reminds "that threatening others as a result of such an incident can have legal consequences."
"We once again urge each of our students, faculty and staff to be beacons of peace, respect, inclusivity and civility — to be role models of integrity, dignity and leadership," Ross said. "At Central Michigan University, we stand up against hate, protect the safety of all, and build bridges of understanding that bring people together.
Ross listed contact information for OID, OCRIE and the CMU Counseling Center as campus resources.
A Valentine's Day card with an anti-Semitic message was passed out to Central Michigan University students on Wednesday, sparking shock and outrage throughout the campus community and on social media.
The card depicts Adolf Hitler and a Valentine's Day-style pun about the Holocaust. It was handed out to students in Anspach Hall -- allegedly by accident -- from a member of the CMU College Republicans.
A member of the registered student organization posted a statement on the College Republicans Facebook page in the early morning on Thursday. The group denies any knowledge of the card and apologized for the offensive content.
"At tonight’s College Republican meeting, we had a Valentine’s Day party, in which each member decorated a bag and other members placed valentines (cards) inside of others’ bags," reads the statement. "Unfortunately, a very inappropriate card was placed into a bag without other members’ knowledge.A bag was then given away, once again without members’ knowledge of its contents.
"The College Republicans as an organization did not distribute this valentine. We in no way condone this type of rhetoric or anti-Semitism. We apologize for any offense, and want students to know that we do not tolerate this sort of behavior."
Mackenzie Flynn, president of CMU's College Republicans, said the bags were meant for members only. One member allegedly printed a page of Valentine's Day memes to cut out and place inside each bag. One meme contained the Holocaust pun.
"While still not appropriate, I want to clear up that they did not create it themselves," she said.
Flynn said a male member who "doesn't like candy" handed his bag to a pair of female students in Anspach Hall. She maintains that the member didn't know the card was inside the gift bag when he gave it away "to be nice."
One of those students was Dundee senior Hannah Homrich who later showed the card to her friend, Allen Park senior Madison Rodriguez Eberth, shortly after receiving the bag.
Eberth posted an image of the card to her social media accounts, which was met with immediate backlash from CMU students.
Student activists from Central Michigan Action plan to hold an anti-hate speech rally at noon on Thursday outside the Fabiano Botanical Garden. Members of Central Michigan Action said the rally is strictly to protest hate speech on campus, not any particular student group.