Condoleezza Rice Blog05

Media Start to Notice Campus ‘Disinvitation Season’

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the early start of a phenomenon we’ve observed at the FIRE office for years: “disinvitation season.” Disinvitation season is the annual ritual of campuses choosing speakers, often times for commencement addresses, and then facing a backlash as either students, faculty, or both demand that the speaker be disinvited. While it’s hard to say for sure, from my vantage point, disinvitation season on campus seems to be getting a little more intense each year.

Over the weekend, The Philadelphia Inquirer published a piece focusing particularly on the controversy over Condoleezza Rice speaking at Rutgers University. At the same time, a similar controversy took place involving Secretary Rice at the University of Minnesota. And my colleague, Robert Shibley, recently wrote over at National Review Online about still another incident at a college in Montana involving an evangelical Christian speaker. Furthermore, a newspaper out in Ohio just profiled the cost of such speakers and briefly discusses the controversy over Ohio State University’s invitation to Chris Matthew’s to speak.

So far, in each of these cases, the administrations have resisted calls to disinvite the selected speakers, which is to their credit. But one must wonder how much the predictability of such incidents dissuade universities from inviting interesting, controversial, or unpopular speakers in the first place.

Reporters consistently focus on the controversies involving commencement speakers, thereby somewhat artificially narrowing the universe of the larger problem of the speaker disinvitation movement on campus, or other similar attempts like the one that took place at Brown University in which Ray Kelly was shouted down and unable to speak last fall. The problem of faculty and students joining together to banish unwanted people or points of view extends well beyond commencement.

  1. James Gawron

    Greg,

    From their rhetoric you would thing the left is concerned with physical diversity and is willing to accept an intellectual monoculture to attain this goal.  Of course, when they refuse to allow the first black female Secretary of State a chance to speak you realize that they could care less about any diversity.  Their monoculture  is, was, and will be their only agenda.

    The real holders of the torch of freedom say what they mean and mean what they say.

    The Academic Bill of Rights

    Regards,

    Jim

  2. Misthiocracy

    Could it be that the very idea of a commencement speaker, especially one not affiliated directly with the university, has become an anachronism for most post-secondary institutions?

    Not including a few exceptions to the rule (i.e. Hillsdale), a university is no longer a institution with whom parents entrust their children to be moulded into that school’s vision of what an upstanding adult should be.

    Under this model it makes sense for the institution to choose a single speaker to impart one last burst of wisdom upon the graduating class. The job of the speaker is to impress upon the graduates, for one last time, the aspirations and values of the institution itself.

    Instead, a university is a facility which houses a wide variety of different educators, offering a wide variety of different courses, to a wide variety of different student-customers.

    The very idea of a single speaker, chosen by the school, to impart a single message, to a captive audience which really has no choice but to sit there and just take it, doesn’t really fit within a paradigm where diversity plays such a dominant role.

    After all, over the four years (or so) of their university career, these kids have chosen their major, chosen their courses, chosen where and how to live, chosen their friends, chosen their clubs, chosen their activities, etc, etc, etc, and then on the very last day they’re expected to sit through a speech imposed on them by some schmuck they didn’t choose?  Good luck with that.

  3. Greg Lukianoff
    C

    Misthiocracy

    Could it be that the very idea of a commencement speaker, especially one not affiliated directly with the university, has become an anachronism for most post-secondary institutions?

    It’s a good point, but I think the selectivity with which the students choose who they want to hear on campus is very telling about a larger problem, which extends well beyond commencement. 

  4. James Gawron

    Misthiocracy:Could it be that the very idea of a commencement speaker, especially one not affiliated directly with the university, has become an anachronism for most post-secondary institutions?Not including a few exceptions to the rule (i.e. Hillsdale), a university is no longer a institution with whom parents entrust their children to be moulded into that school’s vision of what an upstanding adult should be.Under this model it makes sense for the institution to choose a single speaker to impart one last burst of wisdom upon the graduating class. The job of the speaker is to impress upon the graduates, for one last time, the aspirations and values of the institution itself.Instead, a university is a facility which houses a wide variety of different educators, offering a wide variety of different courses, to a wide variety of different student-customers.The very idea of a single speaker, chosen by the school, to impart a single message, to a captive audience which really has no choice but to sit there and just take it, doesn’t really fit within a paradigm where diversity plays such a dominant role.After all, over the four years (or so) of their university career, these kids have chosen their major, chosen their courses, chosen where and how to live, chosen their friends, chosen their clubs, chosen their activities, etc, etc, etc, and then on the very last day they’re expected to sit through a speech imposed on them by some schmuck they didn’t choose? Good luck with that.

    Only if it’s a conservative.  Anyone who isn’t a conservative, no matter how banal or inappropriate is simply accepted as the best the search committee could do.  Nobody cares so nobody complains and they do just sit through it.

    Only if it’s a conservative is it a problem.  That doesn’t come from the students, that comes from the faculty and the administration.  The students are being molded.   Molded to be willing pawns in a banal super-state and to knee jerk react against anything like independent thought.

    Regards,

    Jim

  5. Misthiocracy

    James Gawron: Nobody cares so nobody complains and they do just sit through it.

    Not me. I opted to get my diploma in the mail cuz I knew commencement was a waste of time.

  6. Bucky Boz

    Has FIRE found instances where self-funded forums like Beckett, Cato, or Federalist Society have been blacklisted from hosting forums open to the campus community?

  7. Zafar

    Greg Lukianoff:

    Misthiocracy

    Could it be that the very idea of a commencement speaker, especially one not affiliated directly with the university, has become an anachronism for most post-secondary institutions?

    It’s a good point, but I think the selectivity with which the students choose who they want to hear on campus is very telling about a larger problem, which extends well beyond commencement. 

    It’s tremendously illuminating that this is perceived to be a problem by the Right as well.  I’m mostly aware of campus ‘disinvitations’ of people supporting BDS, but if it’s a wider issue perhaps the roots lie not in the different sides of politics or even the issues but in the culture itself?

  8. Songwriter

    Misthiocracy:

    James Gawron: Nobody cares so nobody complains and they do just sit through it.

    Not me. I opted to get my diploma in the mail cuz I knew commencement was a waste of time.

     Me, too!

  9. Greg Lukianoff
    C

    Bucky Boz:Has FIRE found instances where self-funded forums like Beckett, Cato, or Federalist Society have been blacklisted from hosting forums open to the campus community?

     Not really for those big name groups, but there is an on-going fight, mostly resolved, at Stanford about a Christian group trying to host a discussion that included voices critical of gay marriage: http://www.thefire.org/fire-to-stanford-end-viewpoint-discrimination-against-sexual-integrity-group/

  10. Amy

    Now there is a petition by students to “disinvite” Ayaan Hirsi Ali from receiving an honorary degree in Social Justice from Brandeis University. Her support of the basic rights and freedoms of women is deemed “Islamophobic.” The story is at Truth Revolt.

  11. Group Captain Mandrake

    Greg Lukianoff:A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the early start of a phenomenon we’ve observed at the FIRE office for years: 

     Greg, you make a reference to a list of 120 disinvitees.  Is that something that you would be willing to share?  I would be most interested to see who is on that list.  

  12. Group Captain Mandrake

    Amy:Now there is a petition by students to “disinvite” Ayaan Hirsi Ali from receiving an honorary degree in Social Justice from Brandeis University. Her support of the basic rights and freedoms of women is deemed “Islamophobic.” The story is at Truth Revolt.

     There’s a brief article in the Jerusalem Post.  Truth Revolt has published a new article.  In their original article from yesterday, I can’t see why Bernard Lewis is mentioned along with Tony Kushner, Desmond Tutu et al., except that he is a member of the set of people upon whom Brandeis University has conferred honorary degrees.

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