The University of Houston, based in a city that thrives on the oil industry, decided not to disinvite speakers from the oil industry despite pressure from students. From The College Fix:

It spurned a petition started by a recent graduate that called on the public university to stop Gerald McElvy, a board of regents member, and alumna April Feick from speaking at Thursday’s fall convocation.

McElvy worked for ExxonMobil for 33 years, while Feick is executive advisor to the chairman of the corporation. Feick is giving the keynote speech and McElvy is introducing her.

The petition argues that “the administration should feel the utmost responsibility to fight environmental racism in Houston,” claiming that ExxonMobil’s alleged sins primarily hurt people of color. It points to fines, judgments and ongoing litigation against ExxonMobil in the Houston area, a heavy producer of oil, and other states.

University officials should “instead invite speakers who represent the values the University of Houston strives to uphold,” according to the petition.

It cites the university’s mission statement as contrary to the invitations – that the community should “identify and respond to the economic, social and cultural challenges affecting the quality of life in the city of Houston, the state of Texas and the world.” The invitations also violate the values of “the student body and community.”

Current university enrollment is more than 46,000, according to university figures. It claims to have the “1st In The Nation” master’s program for “subsea engineering,” the specialty of offshore petroleum engineers.

“The Fall Convocation celebrates the hard work, achievements and potential of University of Houston faculty and students, and connects them with UH alumni and community leaders,” according to a statement independently provided to The College Fix by two media relations staffers for the university, Shawn Lindsey and Chris Stipes.

“We look forward to our students hearing from invited guests who span a wide array of backgrounds, associations and experiences,” the statement continued:

Academic freedom is a cornerstone of American higher education. American universities are forums for expression, discussion and debate, and to be true to their social mission, they cannot disinvite guests because the positions or affiliations of those guests may be objectionable to some members of the public or the university community.


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