Cornell University “Apologizes” To Ann Coulter After Students Shouting “Your Words Are Violence” Shut Down Speech
“Cornell apologizes to Ms. Coulter and all members of the audience who hoped to hear her remarks.”
I leave campus for a couple of days and all hell breaks loose. And then pigs flew and Cornell University apologized for something.
Cornell has a long history of conservative speakers being heckled, disrupted and harassed: Rick Santorum, pro-Israel events, and Michael Johns come to mind. But it’s not just conservatives – a group of liberal students wrote a scathing letter in the student newspaper decrying the leftist activist intimidation on campus:
“We write as a group of liberals frustrated with the current campus hostility towards free speech and open dialogue. We believe that a repressive campus culture only isolates and radicalizes, but does not eliminate, those with dissenting views. The goal is to win hearts and minds — not to cancel them. While we find the left’s policy goals laudable, we question the tactics used by our fellow students to achieve those goals. It is important to approach others with goodwill and charity, yet oftentimes we struggle to extend these virtues to our peers and friends.”
Not surprisingly, Cornell ranks low in surveys of students as to campus free expression culture.
Add Ann Coulter to the list.
I knew she was speaking on November 9, because I’m the faculty advisor to the Cornell Chapter of the Network of Enlightened Women (NeW), the group which invited her and sponsored the event. The speech was in one of the larger lecture halls at the law school, but was not a law school or law student event. I was not in Ithaca, so I couldn’t attend.
On Nov. 9, the Cornell University chapter of the Network of Enlightened Women will welcome Ann Coulter ’84 as a guest speaker to a leadership event. Given Ann Coulter’s history of spreading white supremacist ideals and provocatory statements meant to instigate instead of foster productive conversations, Cornell should prevent such a spread of hateful rhetoric by canceling this event….
For those unfamiliar with Ann Coulter’s track record, we are not seeking to “cancel” her merely for identifying as a conservative. Rather, we want accountability for her extremist rhetoric that qualifies as hate speech. She has fomented alarmism over white genocide, declared that racism against people of color does not exist in America and claimed women should not have the right to vote “because women see the government as their husbands.” …
Unfortunately, we were informed by the Campus Activities Office that there were no intentions to cancel the event, although a petition created by the co-writer of this article, Troy Moslemi ’24, has been circulating with hundreds of students in favor of not having Coulter on campus. When prompted on what Cornell is doing to address the presence of an overtly white supremacist guest speaker on campus, we were only informed that Cornell offers resources to support those who may be concerned or affected. Yet, how can the University expect to adequately provide emotional support to students when the reputation of Cornell’s commitment to mental health is already abysmal. We have requested that the University improve their resources for the event, but we have not received any response back….
Free speech assumes that there are no inequalities, which allows everyone to have an equal voice. Therefore, Cornell University not preventing Ann Coulter from speaking on campus upholds the status quo whereby an oppressive class has the largest voice in an era where the Republican Party, despite being unpopular, can win the presidency through the biased Electoral College and win seats in the House with help by illicit gerrymandering. By allowing a powerful right-wing pundit who revels in hate and controversy onto campus, Cornell turns a blind eye to extremism that may pose a threat to vulnerable students. If Cornell University truly wishes to exemplify their motto of “To Do the Greatest Good,” they must put forth a greater effort in amplifying marginalized communities and curtailing harmful rhetoric.
And so it came to pass. The conservative student Cornell Review (to which I’m also the faculty advisor — sensing a pattern here?), reported:
Hecklers blasted music, blew whistles and shouted over Ann Coulter, ultimately derailing her speech in Myron Taylor Hall this evening.
Coulter is a controversial conservative pundit who graduated from Cornell in 1984. While at Cornell, she was a part of the Delta Gamma sorority and helped to found this very publication. She is a staunch advocate for immigration reform, and has recently focused on issues related to crime.
The Network of enlightened Women (NeW) hosted the event in Landis Auditorium. Anticipating mischief, seats were limited to those who had registered online and the event was packed with security officers.
A small protest outside Cornell’s law school preceded the event. Attendees were ushered inside by security officers. The event began with a message from the University Dean of Students, warning the audience that, while applause would be tolerated, attempts to interrupt the speech would lead to removal and referral to the Office of Student Conduct.
Sarah Clark, representing Leadership Institute, then introduced Coulter, who entered from the left-hand side. As she descended the stairs, an individual in the crowd began blaring circus music on a portable speaker. Security approached the individual and, after a warning, he was removed from the event.
Coulter had time for a handful of introductory remarks about the 2022 midterm election results before the hecklers began again. Two individuals on the front left side of the auditorium began making disrupting noises. When a female event organizer approached the students to give a warning, Coulter chimed in: “why is it always girls going and talking to disruptors?” The protestors were subsequently removed.
Coulter remarked that “usually it’s bush league schools where you get the protesters…You go to a place like Harvard and, you know, they’re smart, they want to challenge you, there’s questions and answers, they want to get you.” Having spoken three times at Cornell, Coulter reflected that she has always “been able to say ‘oh, whew, my alma mater is one of the smart schools. So, if you can leave me with that impression tonight that would be really really solid.’”
Almost immediately after, another heckler stood up and began shouting “your words are violence” and “We don’t want you to speak here.” Coulter attempted to continue her remarks, but the heckler continued, “We’re not gonna listen to you, to converse with you! We don’t want your ideas here! Leave! Leave! We don’t want you here!” As the heckler was escorted out, Coulter quipped “words aren’t violence, violence is violence.”
Several more protestors stood and began shouting down Coulter. They seemed to be employing a chain tactic, beginning just as soon as the last heckler was removed, so as to continuously speak over Coulter. One individual began blowing a whistle, prompting anger from other members of the crowd, one of whom yelled “go suck Fauci’s d*ck somewhere else” at the protester.
Coulter then left the room for a few minutes as organizers brought in added security. When she returned, protestors resumed immediately. Two individuals began yelling, “No KKK! No fascist USA!” When they were rushed out, another began yelling about immigration policy.
Finally Coulter waved to the crowd and left the room, saying, “so proud of my alma mater.” The event lasted just a little more than 30 minutes, of which Coulter spoke for less than 7. As students left one audience member shouted, “I love Cornell.”
The @AnnCoulter speaking event on Cornell campus (her alma mater) was successfully disrupted by protestor outbursts. Coulter became annoyed and left the venue in approximately twenty minutes. #twithaca pic.twitter.com/gTOUS34jfO
— Zach Winn (@WinnForMayor) November 10, 2022
NeW provided this statement:
“What happened last night speaks very poorly of the kinds of academic discourse we have at Cornell. We are grateful to the Cornell administration for giving us the support to hold this event, but we are immensely disappointed by the actions of our peers. Refusing to listen to others goes against what we as students should be striving for — honest debate in the marketplace of free ideas.”
Cornell media relations provided this statement from Joel M. Malina, Vice President for University Relations (emphasis added):
“Cornell is committed to academic excellence and a core belief that learning flourishes in an environment where diverse ideas are presented and debated without hindrance. We are deeply disappointed that attendees at a campus event rudely and repeatedly disrupted a talk Wednesday evening by conservative commentator Ann Coulter, ’84.
“Attendees were apprised at the beginning of the event that anyone preventing another’s ability to speak or be heard would be in violation of university policy and subject to removal and/or referral to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards.
“The event was interrupted by attendees playing loud music and sound effects, and shouting profanities. Eight college-age individuals were removed from the auditorium following Cornell protocols. All Cornell students among the disrupters will be referred for conduct violations.
“After the repeated disruption, Ms. Coulter chose not to continue her public remarks.
“Cornell apologizes to Ms. Coulter and all members of the audience who hoped to hear her remarks. The inappropriate behavior displayed by disrupters does not reflect the university’s values.”
That’s a pretty strong statement by the university. I think the administrators are feeling pressure from the years of bad publicity. Last year an alumni group (now joined by faculty and students), Cornell Free Speech Alliance (of which I am one of the founding members but not the driving force), launched and has expanded rapidly.
Cornell has a free expression problem. Maybe the administration finally is waking up to it.DONATE
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