Editorial: Prejudice comes ‘360’ at UMich

By Staff Editorial

Education dissolves prejudice.

Well, that’s what we thought too … before Michigan’s… Education dissolves prejudice.

Well, that’s what we thought too … before Michigan’s Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell began inveighing against the University of Michigan’s student assembly president, using hate-filled words and aggressive confrontation tactics.

You would think that a  taxpayer-funded official with enough academic finesse to pass law school and command an electorate would have already learned the futility of spewing senseless hatred in the public spotlight, but Shirvell dodged expectations. And for this feat, we’ve decided not to congratulate him.

If you happened to see “Anderson Cooper 360°” Tuesday night, you’d know that Shirvell is angry. Calling himself a “Christian citizen exercising [his] First Amendment rights,” he has embarked on an impassioned crusade to rescue his alma mater, UMich — from the grips of “Satan’s representative” who sits at the head of its student board, Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong. Referring to Armstrong’s support of gender-neutral housing and former involvement with on-campus LGBT clubs, Shirvell fears that what he calls a “radical homosexual agenda” will descend upon students.

Irate about Armstrong — the first openly gay MSA president — the assistant attorney general launched an anti-Armstrong blog called “Chris Armstrong Watch” in April where he placed a swastika on the student’s photo — and when that wasn’t enough, Shirvell visited Armstrong’s house with a poster and a video camera.

Now, we’ve always said active alumni improve a school and its surrounding community. It’s certainly great that an alumnus can manage to find time to stay so involved with his former university  —though given his attorney general job, it’s curious that he can find such time. We would just like to ask Shirvell to take his ample minutes elsewhere.

For anyone who watched the “360°” interview or read the blog, it’s clear that Shirvell’s motivations are not just political but founded upon a misguided distrust of gay people. And this kind of immature, unsophisticated vitriol should be banned from — or at least ignored in — public discourse, especially from modern universities. Having someone’s sexual orientation drive you to call him a Nazi or to personally attack him is no proper way to express disagreement — the only purpose such invective can have is to inflame, to degrade and to hurt.

Regardless of whether Shirvell would admit it, Armstrong clearly works hard to serve UMich students — whereas this other “people’s servant” doesn’t seem to care about who he’s affecting. It’s not like gender-neutral housing — a form of university housing which Yale University has already approved as a pilot program for 2011 — is Armstrong’s only concern.  According to Anderson Cooper, Armstrong also pushed for lowering tuition and extending the hours of the school cafeteria.

It’s unfortunate that false-impassioned crusaders like Shirvell get so many headlines. But it would be even worse if they could actually do more than just influence the media. So President Armstrong, don’t let this guy influence you or your board’s functionality: Don’t flinch. We certainly wouldn’t let Charlie Shull.