If you're like me, you probably find the run of commencement addresses tedious, politically tendentious and aesthetically bereft. Well, I've finally found one that's worth listening to. It was given last spring at Harvard, and I really hope that it inspires imitation. The speaker has a fine sense of phrase and diction, and her remarks evince both wisdom and common sense. Would that others were so straightforward and clear. Do let me know what you think.
Ward Connerly spoke at the University of Arizona just a few weeks ago. He was masterly. At five minutes before his talk was to begin there were only five people in the audience. At the start there were between seventy-five and one hundred. It was clear that a huge majority thought they stood in opposition to his views. There were those with placards, who thankfully remained entirely civil throughout. Ward spoke calmly and cooly stating his primary thesis over and over from every angle: Discrimination hardly exists in this country presently. If you work hard you can achieve. Aid should be provided to low income folks no matter what race creed, religion, etc. He deflected or absorbed hostility, never projecting it back at his questioner. A lot of people were thinking hard as they left. Isn't this just what should happen on a university campus, but happens so infrequently?!
So, for the first event of the Arizona Association of Scholars, Ward Connerly will be our guest. Being a strong believer in open dialogue I forwarded a press release to many student organizations on campus. Here is one response:
To: Daniel, Arturo, Andrea, Lorenzo, Socorro, and David I didn't want to explain all of this to the greater email list, but I'm just sending this to a few leaders on campus: Ward Connerly (for those who may not be familiar) was a key opponent of Affirmative Action when the University of Michigan defended its admissions process to the Supreme Court in the late 1990s. As chair of Alianza (Latino student organization) at the University of Michigan during the Affirmative Action cases, I can attest that, frankly, his advocacy can do more potential damage for student of color resources on campus than the cultural center restructuring plans. So, I urge you to research Connerly's track record, attend the talk, and let your voices be heard. If you think it would help, I'd be glad to address your organizations, just let me know. Thanks, Maurice
Jeepers, so much for free inquiry and open dialogue, which now seems to be a dangerous commodity.
Jim Gilchrist, president of the Minuteman Project, an anti-illegal immigration organization, has been dis-invited from speaking at Harvard in an immigration symposium. The decision not to have him speak, announced with only five days notice after five months of planning for his appearance on campus, was made in reaction to radical students' threats of disruptive protest. Here is the Minutman press release on the rescinded invitation. The same Jim Gilchrist was hustled off the stage in the middle of his 2006 speech at Columbia University, as protesters stormed the platform. Well, Harvard, so much for freedom of speech and the pursuit of veritas.
In this week's Clarion Call, my Pope Center colleague Jay Schalin writes about an unexpected development -- an outbreak of civilized debate at the University of North Carolina. Last spring, freedom of speech seemed to be on life-support as leftist demonstrators interrupted and harassed speakers they didn't like and didn't think anyone should hear. This fall, however, things have been completely different. The campus has enjoyed a cornucopia of talks and debates featuring speakers from all over the political and philosophical spectrum. This new openness is a big step in the right direction for UNC.
Wild West killer-for-hire "Deacon" Jim Miller dressed the part of a church-going citizen. Why does UNC Chapel Hill lecture series on "Renewing the Western Tradition" come to mind? Peter Wood writes at NAS.org:
As Jane Shaw explains, the speakers that the committee did choose seem to interpret “renewing Western civilization” as mainly a matter of debunking, de-centering, and otherwise expressing irritation with Western civilization. The subtext seems to be: Renew it? Why would anyone bother? Let’s just get on with replacing it. For this UNC spends $15,000 per lecture, from money given by a donor who explicitly sought a positive approach to the study of Western civilization.
For the full story, check out Jane Shaw's report at the Clarion Call, "The Culture Chasm at UNC."
Jay Schalin has an excellent piece examining one of the dirty secrets of higher education: the generous funding of left-wing speakers and the exclusion of other viewpoints. See his essay "Radical Rhetoric on Somebody Else's Dime."
As a faculty adviser to College Republicans, we have asked--and been denied--student-fee funding repeatedly. One year, we raised $7,000 in private funds to bring Ward Connerly to our law school. We needed another $1,500. Guidelines encourage students to raise some money on their own rather than simply milking the cash cow of student fees. Surely, $7,000 more than matches $1,500?
Answer from student government: a) we don't think graduate or professional students would be interested in your speaker; b) yes, you raised private funds (through donations) but normally we prefer bake-sale type events (although I am sure they did not have "affirmative action bake sale" events in mind!). After much buttonholing on my part, we got our $1,500, Connerly arrived to a packed house and it was one of the best events in many years.
Meanwhile, the College Democrats went to student government and asked for $22,000 to bring James Carville to campus. Answer: "No problem, here you go!" THEY promised to raise another $1,500 by charging nonstudents a $3 admission fee. No doubt the group made money on the event.
Again and again, speakers far to the Left come to campus; student fees give them $10,000 to $100,000. Look up speaker bureaus online and you will see that the more militant the speaker, the more money they make. At his peak, Ward Churchill raked in $20K per rant.
Why is this important? Because it is illegal under the Southworth decision of 2000. The Supreme Court ruled:
"When a university requires its students to pay fees to support the extracurricular speech of other students, all in the interest of open discussion, it may not prefer some viewpoints to others."
Follow the money, document the money, and bring a case against unequal funding of speakers. Otherwise, the law is nothing more than words--and those who control the money know they can present one-sided viewpoints.
At NAS.org, we noted that St. Louis University recently disinvited David Horowitz from a speaking engagement on campus. We also noted that the AAUP—not usually on the same side of issues as Horowitz—has defended Horowitz's right to speak, as has the left-leaning College Freedom blogger John K. Wilson. What you might not have already heard is that St. Louis U's mascot, the Billiken, seems to have played a role in censoring David Horowitz. To read the whole story - and find out what in the world a Billiken is - click here.