A liberal feeding frenzy over Ann Coulter’s appearance intimidated the University and pressured the College Republicans to cancel
On Thursday afternoon, November 8, 2012, a Facebook event page went live announcing that the Fordham College Republicans were bringing Ann Coulter to speak at the university.
By late the next afternoon the event was canceled, after a wild and threatening liberal reaction which worried both the University and the Fordham Republicans, and led to concerns over security for the event. I detail below the interactions which led to the cancellation.
The cancellation received national attention in part because the President of the University, Father Joseph M. McShane, weighed in with a public condemnation of the Coulter invitation in a blast e-mail at 2:17 p.m. on November 9 sent to students, faculty, alumni and parents. While ostensibly declining to cancel the event, Father McShane’s statement lambasted the Fordham Republicans as lacking sound “judgment and maturity” even as the University welcomed Peter Singer, an advocate of infanticide, to campus.
While the leadership of the Fordham Republicans has maintained that the decision to cancel was made prior to and was not related to Father McShane’s email, the timing was not so simple. Father McShane’s e-mail condemnation was sent as a majority of the Board of the College Republicans was voting, via text messages, to cancel, but long before the decision was finalized or conveyed to the administration or the community. Father McShane’s letter forced their hand and obviated further discussion, including participation by a Board member who was unavailable at the time and who opposed cancellation.
No statements questioning the “judgment and maturity” of the students attacking the Fordham Republicans were issued by the Fordham administration. No statements were issued demanding “civility” on the part of those clamoring for Coulter to be kept off campus. Instead, the Fordham administration sided with the unruly feeding frenzy. Shame on Fordham.
The Fordham Republican leadership reacted in haste and without due deliberation because they were unprepared for the over-the-top reaction compounded by a public shaming by the University administration. The membership is deeply divided and bitter over the cancellation and the manner in which it was accomplished.
The end result was that students did not get to hear and challenge Coulter on her views and prior statements. Intellectual cowardice not courage prevailed.
I should note that it’s easy to second-guess the decision to cancel. But put yourselves in the shoes of college students who for the first time incurred the wrath not only of the liberal activist community but also the school administration. These students deserved better from their school.
For this article I spoke with several of the students involved in planning and then cancelling the Coulter appearance, including three of the four Executive Board members, and other Fordham Republicans.
Notably, I was unable to speak with three key players in this drama: Ted Conrad, President of the Fordham Republicans, who despite repeated requests for an interview and repeated agreements to do so, never actually made himself available; Father McShane, who through a press spokesman declined to be interviewed; and Dean of Students Christopher Rodgers, who did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.
1. Background — Expecting Controversy
In the spring of 2012, the Fordham Republicans began to plan for a fall semester speaker. George Will was considered, but his price tag of $40,000 was way beyond their budget. The Fordham Republicans agreed to bring Herman Cain to speak, and went through the university process of getting the $10,000 speaking fee funded. Such funding required approval by a student board as well as university administrators. The funding was approved.
Over the summer, however, concerns were raised that Cain could not commit to a particular date because of his schedule, and the Fordham Republicans decided to bring Coulter to speak instead. Two of the active Fordham Republicans had heard Coulter speak at CPAC 2011, and were impressed with her speech. Coulter agreed to discount her usual $20,000 fee for the appearance to meet the amount already approved for Cain.
The Fordham Republicans booked her through the Young America’s Foundation speakers service, although no contract was signed.
In September, a request was made to transfer the funding approval for Cain to Coulter, and such approvals were obtained both from the necessary student organization and the Fordham administration. No one raised any issues about Coulter at that time.
The Fordham Republicans knew that in choosing Coulter, there was going to be controversy.
According to Board member and former President John Mantia, a senior, the Fordham Republicans were “prepared for controversy” in choosing Coulter.
Emily Harman, a sophomore who is Vice President and a Board member, recalled that “we did know she would be controversial and there would be a lot of opposition,” although not at the level that eventually took place. John McKenna, a student who helped with advertising for the event, told me that people were “well aware she was a controversial figure.”
The decision to bring Coulter was announced to the Fordham College Republicans in September, with no controversy or objections voiced. In October emails were sent to Fordham Republicans to set up committees for the appearance. Again, there were no objections.
On November 8 at 4 p.m. there was a meeting of the Fordham Republicans at which the Coulter visit was discussed, and plans made for advertising and publicizing the event. Posters and flyers already had been designed. Plans were made for a marketing meeting the following Monday. Again, no one raised any objections.
Harman was in charge of the Coulter appearance. In order to generate a QR code for the flyers — so that students could swipe the code on the flyer with their cell phones to automatically respond to the event’s Facebook page — a Facebook page needed to be created.
That Facebook event page went live right around the time of the 4 p.m. Fordham Republican meeting on November 8. While the page has been taken down and is not available, one student saved part of it:
Then all hell broke loose.
2. Immediate and Widespread Liberal Demands for Cancellation
Almost as soon as the Facebook page went live, protests were mounted by liberal groups against Coulter appearing on campus.
Amalia Vavala, a sophomore art history major, immediately voiced her opposition to the event and set up an online petition to prevent Coulter from coming to campus.
“As soon as the news broke that Coulter was coming to Fordham, my friends and I made a make-shift group,” she said.
This group contacted clubs and departments and set up a Facebook group to reach students, Vavala said. Social media was crucial in spreading the word about Coulter, and within 24 hours, the petition had more than 2,000 signatures, Vavala said.
The Change.org Petition originally was titled Fordham: Disinvite Ann Coulter ( and was changed to “Fordham University: We Oppose Ann Coulter Speaking at Fordham” after Father McShane’s letter but before cancellation), and reads in part:
It has recently come to light that Fordham plans to host an event featuring Ann Coulter, Republican political commentator, as the guest speaker. Due to the immense bigotry, xenophobia, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of intolerance that she has displayed in her books, interviews, and otherwise over the course of her career, we believe that a fair percentage of Fordham’s student body and faculty will be uncomfortable with this decision.
The petition included a form email students could send to Office of Student Leadership and Community Development, which had approved the funding. The comments to the petition were pretty repetitive, here are some representative examples:
According to students there was a petition for cancellation circulated by hand on campus. Interestingly, the College Democrats refused to sign.
Protests against Coulter’s appearance began with students, however, on the night of Nov. 8, before any of these reactions from faculty and Father McShane himself.
The group that formed against Coulter published their own Facebook page , set up an email address for student questions and comments and started a Twitter account, where they have appealed to such political pundits as Rachel Maddow and Bill Maher for coverage. They have also collected, at the time of publication, over 1,700 (updated: Nov. 9, 2:01pm) signatures on their petition at change.org to stop Coulter from making her scheduled appearance at the Rose Hill campus.
The group of students that have organized against Coulter’s appearance includes Chloe Foster-Jones, Marriette Dorobis, Dylan Katz, Faith Donnovan, Hanna Tadevich, Amalia Vavala, Lauren DeLucca, Jenny Park, Laura Tretter, Thomas Welch, Blaire Eberhart and Sarah Kneeshaw, all FCLC ’15.
“We realized that more than just sitting here and racking jokes like ‘oh, we want to egg her,’ we should actually do something about it and start a way for students to protest against this since we knew we weren’t the only ones upset about this,” Tadevich, a resident in 10F where the group has set up a makeshift headquarters, said.
The group has several issues with Coulter and the university’s approval of the event, including her personal beliefs and agenda, stating that she present nonfactual information as factual, supports racism, sexism and homophobia, and the group characterizes her as a hateful bigot…
The students have formulated these ideas into what they call a manifesto, which has just been posted to their Facebook page, “Stop Ann Coulter from speaking at Fordham.”
The manifesto reads:
I. Ann Coulter, as an American, is entitled to her opinion and the right to express it.
II. Ann Coulter’s inflammatory rhetoric upsets the Fordham Community because her fighting words directly attack our members.
III. Fordham University is a private institution, not a public forum, and the speakers it chooses reflect on the values of our Fordham community.
IV. Ann Coulter’s self-expression is not compatible with the values the Fordham community professes–particularly the Jesuit tenet of “Men and Women for and With Others”.
V. For these reasons, we feel that our tuition should not pay for Ann Coulter to speak at Fordham University or any Fordham Facility.
The Fordham University Facebook page also was the focus of complaints. Here are some examples from a section called “Comments by others” which appears to have been taken down in the past few days, but which I screen captured on November 15.
The comments included alumni threats to withhold funds, and links to the Fordham Republicans’ Officers’ email addresses. Note the response by Fordham, which refers to Father McShane’s later letter condemning the Coulter appearance:
One of the Facebook users above, Thomas R. Riley, also posted a letter to Father McShane from the Editor in Chief of Fordham’s literary magazine urging Fordham to cancel the speech, with this commentary:
FORDHAM FRIENDS — Below is a letter from a Fordham Honors Student, Anne Buckel ’13, from Syracuse NY, who is asking Fr. McShane to cancel a scheduled appearance of Ann Coulter. I’d like to get behind her effort and put some pressure on the University. Coulter is the living embodiment of everything the University DOES NOT stand for. Her public behavior is an affront to the Gospels, as well as the numerous Jesuit ideals the University (with our support) seeks to inculcate. Jesuit education calls all its students to be men and women for others. Ann Coulter, with her bigotry and hate speech, insults that principle. This is not the same as inviting a Buckley or a Liddy to discuss a conservative point of view, as happened many times back in the ’70s and ’80s, and which did boost public discourse. She has no place on the University stage. Please read Anne’s letter and let me know what you think.
Faculty also chimed in with criticism:
In a memo to her colleagues on the morning of Nov. 9th, Gwenyth Jackaway, associate chair of the communication and media studies program at Lincoln Center, said she was “saddened and disappointed that there are students at Fordham who would want to invite Ms. Coulter to speak here.”
“Some people express their views that seem particularly intended to inflame emotions that can be harmful to the safety and stability of our society,” Jackaway said, referring to Coulter and people from parties across the political spectrum.
While obviously opposed to Coulter’s politics and agenda on a personal level, Jackaway admits that it is not the place of the university to dictate who may and may not be allowed to speak on campus.
3. Threats to Disrupt The Event
According to Mantia, as soon as the event was announced on Facebook the “phones started blowing up.” This did not come as as much of a shock to Mantia as it did others. “The fact that it blew up was expected,” according to Mantia.
The worst of the comments took place at the Fordham Republicans’ Facebook event page, which unfortunately was taken down soon after the cancellation, and in communications not recorded anywhere.
According to several students interviewed, the comments were similar in subject matter to the Change.org comments, i.e., playing on themes that Coulter was a bigot, homophobic, racist, etc.
Student Jason Castonguay, writing in The Ram, noted the aggressiveness of the attacks:
Unfortunately, though predictably given the current state of national politics, the debate was far from civil. The treatment of Ann Coulter and, in a disturbing turn, of the College Republicans, was appalling. Ann Coulter was called a bully, a homophobic bigot, “a vile creature” and worse on the social media pages of Fordham students. Civil discourse would have revealed that many of these labels cannot be factually supported. For example, Coulter is on the Advisory Council for GoProud, a group that represents gay conservatives.
In criticizing her sometimes-hateful rhetoric, these students ironically spouted hate of their own. They failed to apply the Jesuit principles that they used to argue against Ann Coulter’s appearance in their treatment of Coulter and the College Republicans. In an exchange typical of the debate over Coulter’s appearance, a liberal student declared that Coulter should have her voicebox removed. The ensuing exchange involved the words “twat,” “little girl” and “disgusting” in reference to the person with the opposing viewpoint.
This is just one example of the mud-slinging to which Fordham students resorted. We should be ashamed that we, as Fordham students, were unable to rise above the level of incivility many ascribe to Coulter and resorted to verbally abusing people of different understandings.
The editors of The Ram, in an editorial supporting the decision to cancel, noted the nature of the attacks:
We at The Ram are proud that the student body did not passively accept the prospect of her visit, but we also do not support some of the equally-hateful speech used on Facebook and in the Twittersphere to protest Coulter and the incendiary, extreme version of conservatism for which she stands.
Some of the language used in this online debate on social media sites was highly inappropriate, distasteful and unbecoming of Fordham students.
According to Sophomore Stephanie Criscione, who only recently became active in the Fordham Republicans, there was “a lot of venom” and “very hostile threats” including threats to heckle and throw tomatoes. “Through all the intensity, I personally feared what would happen,” Criscione said, and even asked if there was enough money for extra security.
McKenna confirmed that in private conversations several people indicated that there would be attempts to disrupt the event by heckling and other disruptions.
4. Friday Morning Call From The Dean of Students And Talk About Cancelling
Despite the controversy, there was no discussion at the Board level on Thursday night about cancelling the event. According to Harman, many members of the Fordham Republicans defended the decision to bring Coulter to campus.
At approximately 10:30 a.m. on Friday, November 9, Christopher Rodgers, the Dean of Students, called each of the four Executive Board members requesting a meeting at 3:30 p.m. that day. According to Harman, prior to that call there had been no Board discussion of cancelling. According to Mantia, Rodgers mentioned that there had been many calls and emails about the event.
At about 1:50 p.m. Conrad, the Fordham Republican President, sent a text message to other board members that he wanted to cancel the event: “I personally take issue with too many things she has said and take responsibility in not properly vetting her. She is not the type of person we want representing our party or our organization on campus. If the only reason of going through with it is to stick it to the liberals and prove a point then I think we have lost focus of what these speakers are all about.” Another Board member, Joseph Campagna, was in agreement, as were two Freshman liasons who were Board members but not on the Executive Board.
Harman did not see the texts until sometime after 2:15 because she was in class, responded “I’m with you guys.” The only Board member not available was Mantia, who told me that had he been asked, he would have urged that time be taken to discuss it before reaching a decision. Mantia said there was no time to talk about it, the decision was “”made in such haste,” and he “would have voted to keep her.”
The membership was not consulted before the Board decided to cancel, and did not find out about the decision until much later in the day.
5. Father McShane’s Blast E-mail In Midst of Deliberations Whether to Cancel
At 2:17 p.m., before the Cornell Republicans had finished their vote (but at a time when a majority already was in favor of cancellation), and before anyone was informed of the decision, Father McShane sent a blast email to the campus, the text of which was posted on Facebook at 2:30 p.m., and read:
The following University Statement is being posted to the University home page, and sent to students, Faculty, Staff, Parents, and Alumni (via the Alumni Newsletter):
University Statement on Ann Coulter Appearance | November 9, 2012
The College Republicans, a student club at Fordham University, has invited Ann Coulter to speak on campus on November 29. The event is funded through student activity fees and is not open to the public nor the media. 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.
As members of a Jesuit institution, we are called upon to deal with one another with civility and compassion, not to sling mud and impugn the motives of those with whom we disagree or to engage in racial or social stereotyping. In the wake of several bias incidents last spring, I told the University community that I hold out great contempt for anyone who would intentionally inflict pain on another human being because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or creed.
“Disgust” was the word I used to sum up my feelings about those incidents. Hate speech, name-calling, and incivility are completely at odds with the Jesuit ideals that have always guided and animated Fordham.
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.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President
Harman said she was aware of Father McShane’s e-mail during the texting back and forth among Board members about cancellation, and believed others were aware as well.
Mantia did not take part in this texting approval process.
The letter took the Fordham Republicans by complete surprise. Campagna said they were “blindsided” and that Father McShane “unfairly” judged them.
Criscione said that she was “very hurt” by McShane’s statement. “Fordham is in my blood,” she said, referring to the fact that both her parents attended. “I had never been more disappointed in my school.” Criscione said that numerous students on Facebook used McShane’s e-mail to taunt Fordham Republicans, and she sent along this screenshot (names redacted) of a student down the hall proclaiming that Fordham Republicans had “nowhere to hide” after McShane’s e-mail:
Christina Marquis, a student active in the Fordham Republicans, felt that as a result of McShane’s letter, “many of the College Republicans, myself included, felt ostracized and pushed into the corner.” As noted at the YAF blog, Marquis was the target of attacks on Facebook.
6. Friday Afternoon Meeting with Dean Rodgers
At 3:30 p.m. on Friday, November 9, three Executive Board members — Conrad, Campagna and Harman — met with Dean Rodgers. Mantia was unavailable.
As of that time, the decision to cancel had not been conveyed to the membership or the community.
The two students in attendance who would speak with me, Campagna and Harman, each described Rodgers as sympathetic and helpful.
The students did not initially tell Rodgers that they had decided to cancel.
Rodgers said he never had received so many phone calls and communications protesting an event, and that he expected there would be extreme protests, maybe even violence. Rodgers, according to Harman, suggested that they should consider cancelling, but did not tell them they had to cancel.
Conrad then informed Rodgers that they had decided to cancel. Rodgers walked them through the steps of getting a new speaker.
Harman said she left the meeting expecting that there would be further discussion on the subject and a meeting the following week about it. There had been no discussion about what cancelling would mean, she said.
7. Surprise Rush Cancellation Announcement
After she left the meeting with Dean Rodgers and returned to her room, Harman saw a draft letter regarding cancellation which apparently had been drafted by Conrad together with a former President. Harman saw the draft but didn’t have time to respond immediately because she was rushing for the subway, but recalls Mantia being opposed to some of the wording in the draft, particularly language apologizing.
When she exited the subway, she started getting text messages from club members upset that the event was cancelled. Harman’s and Mantia’s names were on the statement, but they did not approve it. As reported by The Ram:
“I did not agree with the rescinded invitation,” Mantia said in an email. “My name was added to that statement without my approval.”
Harman said she originally agreed with the sentiment that Coulter should not come to campus, but did not agree with the wording of the statement sent to the University community.
“I expected our executive board to sit down and discuss the matter, write the letter together and then publish an official decision,” Harman said in an email. “That unfortunately was not the case.”
Conrad, Harman and Campagna said they agreed, before the group’s statement was sent out, that Coulter’s speaking engagement at Rose Hill should be canceled. Mantia said he disagreed with the decision.
Campagna later acknowledged that some board members were not together at the time the statement was written.
The statement was released sometime in the late afternoon on Friday. The statement read:
The College Republicans regret the controversy surrounding our planned lecture featuring Ann Coulter. The size and severity of opposition to this event have caught us by surprise, and caused us to question our decision to welcome her to Rose Hill. Looking at the concerns raised about Ms. Coulter, many of them reasonable, we have determined that some of her comments do not represent the ideals of the College Republicans and are inconsistent with both our organization’s mission, and the University’s. We regret that we failed to thoroughly research her before announcing, that is our error and we do not excuse ourselves for it. Consistent with our strong disagreement with certain comments by Ms. Coulter we have chosen to cancel the event and rescind Ms. Coulter’s invitation to speak at Fordham. We made this choice freely, before Father McShane’s email was sent out and we became aware of his feelings – had the President simply reached out to us before releasing his statement he would have learned that the event was being cancelled. We hope the University community will forgive the College Republicans for our error, and continue to allow us to serve as its main voice of the sensible, compassionate, and conservative political movement that we strive to be. We fell short of that standard this time, and we offer our sincere apologies.
Ted Conrad, President
Emily Harman, Vice President
Joe Campagna, Treasurer
John Mantia, Secretary
According to multiple students, no attempt was made to alert YAF or Coulter to the cancellation, and they found out about it only through Facebook or the media.
8. Victory Declared
After the Fordham Republican announcement, the Change.org petition carried a Victory announcement:
The next day, November 10, at 12:46 p.m., Father McShane released an additional statement, as follows:
University Statement | Ann Coulter Appearance Cancelled
November 10, 2012Late yesterday, Fordham received word that the College Republicans, a student club at the University, has rescinded its lecture invitation to Ann Coulter.
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 regretssincerely 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.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President
9. Bitterness Among Fordham Republicans
The reaction from many Fordham Republicans was mixed. Many were bitter over the cancellation and treatment by the University.
According to Marquis, “It was a clear win for those who had opposed her. It was not just an opposition to Coulter, but an opposition to our freedom of speech. Rescinding the invitation showed nothing but weakness.”
McKenna said he was “appalled” to read the apology and feels “like we surrendered.” Writing at the College Conservative, McKenna opined:
I would’ve let the event go on, but unfortunately my club’s executive board caved in and actually apologized over inviting her. I’m not sure what stung more, the university president calling us out, or being stabbed in the back by our club’s elected leaders. There is no other word for it: we surrendered. If there is one thing conservatives do not do, it’s throw up the white flag in the face of mob tyranny, especially when the College Democrats, of all people, were helping this event proceed. Rather than this event be a show of strength, it was a show of weakness, helped along by the high-handedness of our administration.
Other students recognized the predicament. According to Criscione, at a Fordham Republican meeting the week after the cancellation, many students recognized that the club was put in an untenable situation, the “situation got completely out of control and blew up to the point that if something happened [at the event] it would have been on us.”
As to accusations from conservative alumni who were upset with the cancellation and called the Fordham Republicans cowards, Harman said “I agree with them. All we really had to say is we don’t agree with all her comments” but that we want to generate discussion.
10. Did The Fordham Republicans Cancel Because of Coulter’s 9/11 Widows Comment?
As indicated above, the overwhelming nature of the protest against the Coulter appearance was from liberals with arguments that Coulter was a bigot, homophobe, racist, etc.
Yet in my interview with Campagna, he painted a different picture. According to Campagna — and presumably Conrad who would not be interviewed — the motivating factors were three comments made by Coulter a number of years earlier of which he was unaware.
According to Campagna, some members of the Fordham Republicans voiced opposition to Coulter’s 2006 comments about a group of four 9/11 widows (I address this more below), as well as her comment that Timothy McVeigh should have bombed the NY Times building instead and that Jews were to be “perfected.”
Campagna focused heavily on the 9/11 widow comments, repeatedly bringing up that Fordham lost alumni and family members in the 9/11 attack. “Obviously” these comments “have more potency being that we are located in New York,” according to Campagna.
Here is an interview in which the Coulter’s 2006 comments were discussed and explained:
Campagna, after I asked him repeatedly and he didn’t respond, finally said he was aware of this video, but that no explanation was acceptable. “Whatever the context” the comments were “inappropriate.”
When I asked him if he was aware that the so-called Jersey Widows group had appeared at 9/11 Truther Cynthia McKinney’s alternative 9/11 hearings in 2005, he said it didn’t matter. “Regardless of how 9/11 widows politically affiliate,” Campagna said, “we don’t think hurling insults” is appropriate.
I asked if the Board ever considered using Coulter’s appearance as a chance to confront her about her comments, he said that “while we greatly approve of free speech,” the club “wanted a person to be more than provocation and shock value.”
Other students involved, however, are skeptical of the 9/11 widow justification for the cancellation.
According to Mantia, while he had heard some complaints about the 9/11 widow comment and that it was a large contributing factor, most of the issues people had with her appearance were “not with the 9/11 widow comment.” He continued, “the idea that most of the people complaining were conservatives or moderates was not the impression I got.”
Harman said she had not heard complaints about the 9/11 widow comment except in passing after the cancellation and agreed that it was a “convenient excuse.”
Marquis said, “I think it was just something they had picked as the reason. I think it’s more that they didn’t want to feel the pressure from the administraiton and other students opposed”
Criscione viewed the 9/11 widow issue as “a good reason to put out towards the university whereas if we just caved and said due to extreme outcry we decided to cancel” it would not look as good.
11. Legacy — Fear Of Controversial Conservative Speakers
In the aftermath of the protests and cancellation, the Fordham Republicans are “closely vetting” potential replacement speakers, according to The NY Daily News. The prescreening of speakers who might cause liberal protests is the real downside of the incidents such as this.
Clearly the Fordham Republicans knew there would be protests over inviting Coulter. Yet they did not anticipate the intensity of the protests and the threats of disruption. When the Dean of Students called at 10:30 a.m. on Friday requesting a meeting about Coulter’s appearance, that only could have raised the pressure and contributed to the decision reached a little over three hours later.
Whatever doubts or desires for discussion may have existed, Father McShane’s 2:17 blast email to students, faculty, alumni and parents condemning the event and the Fordham Republicans, coming literally minutes after text messages among the Board over cancellation, surely must have sealed the cancellation and led to a panic to get a cancellation announcement out quickly.
Personally, I don’t buy the 9/11 widows excuse for cancellation. It does appear that there were some complaints, and I don’t question that some legitimately were upset over the issue.
But what we had was a classic feeding frenzy visited upon young people who were not prepared to deal with it and who reacted in haste. In so doing, they made more likely the next feeding frenzy when a “controversial” conservative comes to campus.
I should say in closing that having spoken with several of these students at length, they are a fine group. They are a credit to their university, and they deserved better from Father McShane than the mockery and derision they received.
Related posts at Fordham v. Coulter week at College Insurrection.