I am still trying to obtain an interview with Father Joseph M. McShane, President of Fordham University, who spoke out forcefully condemning the invitation by the Fordham Republicans to Ann Coulter.
Robert Shibley of The FIRE notes at College Insurrectionthat Fordham defends its invitation to infanticide supporter Peter Singer to speak on campus, Fordham struggles to defend condemning Ann Coulter, while embracing infanticide supporter Peter Singer
The Fordham Republicans, in a decision which appears to have been taken by its Board without the support of the membership (more on that in a later post), rescinded the invitation after a nasty Facebook and online campaign against students supporting the decision to invite Coulter.
Father McShane’s November 9 statement read, in part:
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.
McShane did not demand that Coulter’s talk be cancelled. But he played to an intense online crowd demanding cancellation because Coulter engaged in “hate speech,” specifically alleged homophobia (Put aside the merits, which are at best dubious, as Coulter is a Board Member of GOP Proud.)
When a University President weighs in on free speech issues and condemns a speaker, it’s not just part of the normal exchange of ideas — it carries an implied force of law and power which encourages self-censorship by students:
But Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (an organization that opposes limits on campus speech), said via e-mail that he was not necessarily impressed with what transpired at Fordham. “I think you need to be extremely skeptical any time an official with great administrative power at a university, especially a university president, vehemently condemns a speaker and then the inviting group coincidentally happens to cancel that speaker, even if, as in this case, the president is saying that he supports free speech out of the other side of his mouth,” Lukianoff said. “I’ve seen too many cases over the years where university officials have tried to claim that their strong condemnation of speech wasn’t really a direct order for the students to self-censor, but then when you talk to the students themselves it’s pretty clear that they understood they did not have much choice in the matter.”Further, he said that “Coulter was, in fact, inspiring rich, heated debate and discussion on campus; that might’ve actually been viewed by an earlier generation as a good thing. The fact that the first thing that occurred to some students was to try to get her from being on campus at all should be troubling to people even if they have no regard for Coulter. A better attitude about open debate and discussion is to have controversial speakers come to campus and see what surprising and interesting debate that will almost necessarily produce.”
Whose hate speech gets condemned at Fordham, and if alleged “homophobia” is the standard for condemnation, who gets to judge?
The Catholic Church itself regularly is accused of homophobia:
There are many layers to the sin of homophobia that the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church commits. Most people within and outside the church know, for example, that the Vatican preaches homophobia and does not consecrate same-sex marriages.
I could go on and on with links to left-wing blogs and groups which condemn Catholic positions on gay marriage, among other things, but this column from just a few days ago is typical, Vatican pledges to continue campaign of homophobia and bigotry:
In opposition to justice, the Vatican will continue to fight against marriage equality. According to the Vatican, the Roman Catholic Church will continue their immoral campaign of bigotry and homophobia in an attempt to deny gay and lesbian individuals the right to same-sex marriage.
Go back to Father McShane’s statement again:
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.
I don’t believe that statement is correct on the merits. But regardless, don’t people say the same thing about the Catholic Church and other religious groups? As we know, such arguments are used to try to drive Christian groups from campus.
I’ll have more on this as I’m receiving information from students on campus. And I’m still hoping for an interview with Father McShane.