After a student organization at the University of Maryland at College Park called off a screening of the film American Sniper, two other student groups have decided to show the movie instead. The College Republicans and College Democrats at Maryland announced Tuesday that they will screen American Sniper on Monday and moderate a panel discussion following the film.
American Sniper was originally scheduled to be shown at a screening organized by Maryland's Student Entertainment Events, a student group that arranges for films, comedians and musicians to come to campus. After receiving a petition from the university's Muslim Student Association and meeting with concerned students -- who argued that the film fuels "anti-Arab and anti-Islamic sentiments" and "helps to proliferate the marginalization of multiple groups and communities" -- the group decided to put off the screening until at least next semester. The decision prompted widespread outrage and media coverage as several other colleges have faced similar protests over screenings of the film.
In a statement Tuesday, Wallace Loh, Maryland's president, praised the College Republicans and College Democrats for organizing the new screening, but condemned the "venomous, racist and hateful messages" directed at the Muslim Student Association over the last week. He also criticized Maryland politicians and national news organizations that continue to mischaracterize the decision as being made by the university, not a student group.
"MSA members were right to speak up for what they believe in," Loh said. "They deserve our admiration, not the scorn and vitriol they got on Facebook. I also applaud the student leaders of SEE for listening to the concerns of their fellow students. Their decision to reschedule the screening so a constructive dialogue could be held marks the exercise of free speech and a sensitivity to campus values of respect and inclusion. I am proud of our College Republicans and College Democrats for working together on the screening and panel discussion of American Sniper. Working together, despite differences in philosophy and doctrine, is a laudable example for us all."