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It’s not just a question of perception; the push for speakers (commencement and otherwise) to be disinvited from campus has gotten worse.
So far, FIRE has discovered 192 incidents in which students or faculty have pushed for speakers invited to campus (both for commencement and other speaking engagements) to be disinvited since 2000. Eighty-two of those incidents were “successful” in that ultimately the speaker did not speak. Of those 82 successful disinvitations, 53 occurred via the revocation of the speaker’s invitation to campus, 17 were from speakers withdrawing in the face of protest, and 12 were “heckler’s vetoes” in which speakers were shouted down, chased off stage, or otherwise prevented from speaking.
Of those 192 disinvitation efforts since 2000, 114 have happened since 2009, when we first noticed an uptick in the frequency of disinvitation incidents. Of the 82 “successful” disinvitation attempts, 50 occurred during or after 2009.
Notably, speaker withdrawals in the face of protest are overwhelmingly a recent phenomenon–11 of the 14 “withdrawal in the face of protest” incidents have occurred since 2009. In fact, just fewer than half of those withdrawals (6) took place since January 2013.
And of interest to the Ricochetti:
[T]here is no hiding the fact that conservative speakers are much more likely to face disinvitation efforts than others, and the overwhelming majority of disinvitation efforts come from the left of the speaker, even if that speaker considers herself a liberal (as in the case of Janet Napolitano, among many others). Of course, there are examples of speakers being opposed from the political right, including former Weather Underground leader and retired professor Bill Ayers. Nonetheless, the whole picture of disinvitations accords with conservative critiques of higher education that assert that the left has increasingly become intolerant of opposing points of view. While I think this is an incomplete picture (much of campus censorship in other contexts is not particularly political), if students don’t want this to be the narrative, they should stop playing into it.
You can read the full FIRE report here.