Saturday, November 17, 2012

In Reply: What Happened at Fordham Wasn't Censorship...It Was Speech

In reply to: The Weekend Interview with Greg Lukianoff: How Free Speech Died on Campus -

This whole thing is a put on. No one forced the College Republicans to disinvite Coulter. They did that on their own, of their own free will (and to hear them tell it, BEFORE president McShane expressed his opinion on the subject.) No one issued a law. Campus security was not dispatched to keep Ann Coulter (or those who invited her) off the campus.

What happened was exactly what so many of us so often say we want; for those who don't like the speech of a particular speaker to respond with speech of their own. McShane, along with many Fordham students, believe that Ann Coulter has said offensive things in the past, and spoke out against giving her the opportunity to say them again at Fordham. Whether the college Republicans legitimately agreed, or simply bowed to the pressure of having so many people disagree with their choice of speaker, this isn't a case of censorship or a lack of acedemic freedom. The college president didn't stop Ann Coulter from coming or threaten to punish those who invited her. All he did was speak out saying he was disappointed in the choice they had made, and saying why. That's not's speech.

I agree that too many schools go too far in trying to curb unpopular or hurtful speech. While I do believe that not all speech is appropriate in all situations, there is no speech that should be suppressed in all situations, on or off campus. And while I understand the appeal of making hard and fast rules, accusations of bigoted or hurtful speech have to be judged on their own merits. Zero tolerance policies seldom work, no matter what "evil" they're trying to prevent.

While i'm a liberal, I often agree with the stands FIRE takes... But I think they're missing the mark on this one... This is speech in response to speech, and a group who says they were convinced by some of that speech to change their minds.

Posted Saturday, 11/17/12

Richard Tauchar Replied:
"All he did was speak out saying he was disappointed in the choice they had made, and saying why."
Isn't that bad enough? It's not his place to influence students in that way. Yes, he used "speech", but it's the speech of the person in power, which carries extra weight.
My Reply to Richard:

First off, the College Republican group claim that they had already decided to "disinvite" Ms. Coulter prior to McShane releasing his statement, but even if they had not, no, I don't believe that the college president should refrain from being a part of the debate because he holds power at the college anymore than I believe Ann Coulter should refrain from participating in the debate because her celebrity affords her more power than others. If he wasn't using his power--by sanctioning those who invited Coulter, or creating a rule whereby he would have to approve all on-campus speakers prior to their being invited to speak--the fact of his power at Fordham University should not prevent him from expressing his opinion, even if some with less power at the campus may feel bad (or even vaguely threatened, though he issued no threat) because he disagreed with them.

Tom O'Hare sez:
BS, James. The president used his power to discourage a well-known media writer/lawyer from expressing her opinion. Stop the spin. If it had been Angela Davis, he would have been fawning all over her. Get real.
My reply to Tom:

How so, Tom?

What specifically did Reverend McShane say or do that prevents (or in any way discourages) Ann Coulter from expressing her opinions? She's as free to speak today as she ever was...

When you "get real," Reverend McShane didn't even discourage the College Republicans at Fordham University. Their own statement, signed by the President, VP, Treasurer and Secretary, the Fordham College Republicans had already decided to drop Ms. Coulter before McShane made his statement:

“We made this choice freely before Fr. 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

And while you're at it, perhaps you will back your claim that Reverend Joseph McShane is in any way sympathetic to Communism--or in fact, resides anywhere on the left side of the partisan political spectrum--with more than just your own intuition. (I mean, I suppose it's possible that he's a communist (or God forbid, a Democrat), but I can find no report saying so, and no statements of his supporting communist rhetoric or ideals.)

No comments:

Nerd Score (Do nerds score?)