News Story

University of Michigan Hosts 'Non-Partisan' Event: 'The Republican War On Women'

U-M policies say school cannot advertise partisan event; panel features all left-wing speakers and moderator

The University of Michigan violated its own policies by using school resources to advertise a partisan event it called, “The Republican War on Women,” says a candidate for the U-M Regents.

Dr. Robert Steele, a Republican candidate, said it was partisan because the “Republican War on Women” was listed as a factual statement for the event and U-M used its email system to advertise the event, which takes place Monday.

The event includes a moderator who has made campaign contributions to President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee and a panel of three women journalists who have been strong critics of the GOP and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. 

One panelist tweeted during a presidential debate that she needed Obama to win. A second panelist wrote in article she was “ashamed” any woman could vote for Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan. The third panelist wrote in an article that the GOP wanted to build a time machine and rebuild 1950s-type social barriers.

After questions arose about the event, images on the university's website promoting it changed to add a question mark to the title. To see the original promotional material for the event, click here.

"The question mark came on only after people started complaining," Dr. Steele said. "Because they are so liberal in their mindset, it never occurs to them that they violate their own rules."

U-M Professor Susan Douglas, the department chair for communication studies, is serving as  moderator. Douglas wrote a Jan. 22 article about the presidential election titled, "It's the Stupid Republicans, Stupid." 

According to campaign finance documents at, Douglas donated $1,000 to  Obama in 2012 and has a history of donating to the Democratic Party and related causes. Douglas did not respond to a request for comment.

"It's a campaign event and should not be done at a taxpayer-funded college," said Tina Dupont, a member of the Tea Party of West Michigan. "That's certainly a misuse of our dollars. Without having both sides represented, to me it comes across as a campaign event. I don't appreciate my money being used like that. I don't think there is a war on women in the Republican Party."

On Saturday, University of Michigan Spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said he didn't have additional details on the event and wouldn't comment. 

However, on Sunday, Kelly Cunningham, another university spokesperson, said the event was the second in a two-part symposium exploring the role of gender in the election.

"Monday's forum is not about election politics," she said. "It's about how the media is involved in politics.

Regarding the title, I understand from the organizers that there are 183,000,000 uses of the phrase, "The Republican War on Women" in Google. The panelists will explore the climate in which such assertions as a 'war on women' get made in the media. They will also look historically at how women's issues were presented in the 2008 election compared to the present election," Cunningham said.

Cunningham said the Institute for Research on Women and Gender added the question mark to the title "to avoid any misunderstanding about the purpose of the event. They want to make clear that a 'Republican War on Women' is not being assumed nor is the purpose of the forum an examination of whether there is ‘Republican War on Women.’ Of course, the views expressed will be those of the individual panelists."

The first event was held Oct. 11 and was titled, "Democrats, Republicans, and the politics of gender."

One of the panelists for Monday's panel, Katha Pollitt, is a writer for The Nation, and wrote: "After all the weird, heartless, misogynistic, ignorant things Republican men have said about women and pregnancy and rape over the past month, I'm ashamed for my sex that any woman is still planning to vote for Romney and Ryan."

Another panelist, Anna Holmes of the Washington Post, had a string of criticisms of Romney on her Twitter account during the Oct. 16 debate, including tweets that said: "What I need tonight: 1) Obama win. 2) Yankees loss," and "Someone make an ad. MT @anildash: Romney body language # condescending tone towards women (incl moderator) shows mindset of sexist policies."

The third panelist, Rebecca Traister of, wrote a Sept. 1 article titled, "Republicans want to build a time machine, But don't be fooled: Republicans aren't just nostalgic for 1950s-style social barriers. They want to rebuild them."

What the right wants, and what they tried to build for themselves in Tampa, was a time machine. Republicans are panting for a tricked-out DeLorean that can take them back! Back in time! To a period when the power structure was fixed and comfortable, when there were no black first ladies or black camerawomen, when loud Jewish ladies were not in charge of national political parties, back to a time when only a select few — the white, the male, the straight, the Protestant — could reasonably expect to exert political or financial or social or sexual power.

Dr. Steele said he was troubled the email and promotional images also included a red target as a graphic.

"And it has the target, the whole thing they complained about with Sarah Palin," Dr. Steele said.

Many critics of former vice presidential candidate Palin questioned whether putting a target on her website highlighting important elections, including that of Arizona Democrat Gabrielle Gifford, played a role in the shooting of Gifford months later. Many on the left have been calling for a "return to civility."

(Editor's note: The University of Michigan responded with additional comments on Sunday, which have been added to the story.)

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.