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University Pres. Scolds Students for Inviting Ann Coulter to Speak: 'Disappointed' Would Be 'Tremendous Understatement


"Do we abandon our ideals in the face of repugnant speech and seek to stifle Ms. Coulter's...or do we use her appearance as an opportunity to prove that our ideas are better?"

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: Ann Coulter attends the TIME 100 Gala celebrating TIME'S 100 Most Influential People In The World at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 24, 2012 in New York City. Credit: Getty Images for TIME

Conservative author and pundit Ann Coulter delivers remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference February 10, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Getty Images)

American universities are often criticized for their left-leaning biases, but the president of Fordham University in New York appeared to take it a step further when he singled out the young Republicans on campus.

The group "College Republicans" had invited well-known author and columnist Ann Coulter to speak, and President Joseph M. McShane expressed his thoughts in a university-wide email, according to Young America's Foundation (YAF).

It should be noted that Coulter's appearance was to be paid for by the school's student activity fees, but the president still made it seem as though the school deserved tremendous praise for allowing free speech by a conservative firebrand.  In the end, though, Coulter's invitation was still rescinded, the university's website says.

Here is part of the November 9th email, via the YAF (all subsequent emphasis added):

...Student groups are allowed, and encouraged, to invite speakers who represent diverse, and sometimes unpopular, points of view, in keeping with the canons of academic freedom. Accordingly, the University will not block the College Republicans from hosting their speaker of choice on campus.

To say that I am disappointed with the judgment and maturity of the College Republicans, however, would be a tremendous understatement. There are many people who can speak to the conservative point of view with integrity and conviction, but Ms. Coulter is not among them. Her rhetoric is often hateful and needlessly provocative-more heat than light-and her message is aimed squarely at the darker side of our nature.

McShane then references a number of racist incidents that occurred on campus, before concluding:

Still, to prohibit Ms. Coulter from speaking at Fordham would be to do greater violence to the academy, and to the Jesuit tradition of fearless and robust engagement. Preventing Ms. Coulter from speaking would counter one wrong with another. The old saw goes that the answer to bad speech is more speech. This is especially true at a university, and I fully expect our students, faculty, alumni, parents, and staff to voice their opposition, civilly and respectfully, and forcefully.

The College Republicans have unwittingly provided Fordham with a test of its character: do we abandon our ideals in the face of repugnant speech and seek to stifle Ms. Coulter's (and the student organizers') opinions, or do we use her appearance as an opportunity to prove that our ideas are better and our faith in the academy-and one another-stronger? We have chosen the latter course, confident in our community, and in the power of decency and reason to overcome hatred and prejudice.

When the College Republicans rescinded their invitation to Coulter, saying they didn't "vet" her properly, McShane said the university had passed its challenge "with flying colors."

Here is part of his follow-up letter, via The Observer:

Allow me to give credit where it is due: the leadership of the College Republicans acted quickly, took responsibility for their decisions, and expressed their regrets sincerely and eloquently. Most gratifying, I believe, is that they framed their decision in light of Fordham’s mission and values. There can be no finer testament to the value of a Fordham education and the caliber of our students.

Yesterday I wrote that the College Republicans provided Fordham with a test of its character. They, the University community, and our extended Fordham family passed the test with flying colors, engaging in impassioned but overwhelmingly civil debate on politics, academic freedom, and freedom of speech.

We can all be proud of Fordham today, and I am proud to serve you.

(H/T: WeaselZippers)



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