Ann Coulter was scheduled to speak at Fordham University on November 29. Her appearance, organized by the conservative club on campus and funded by the school, would have marked the first time this fall a conservative addressed the Fordham student body.
Upon the announcement this week of the event, the conservative club was routinely attacked by others on campus. In fact, one member was singled out as a racist on a Tumblr blog that has since been removed.
Adding to the attacks against the club was the university president, Joseph McShane. Instead of welcoming Ann Coulter and encouraging students to consider her ideas, he issues an email to students, alumni, and faculty blasting the club for inviting her to speak.
He writes that groups area allowed to bring speakers with “diverse viewpoints” and that the school won’t block her from speaking, yet he felt compelled to openly attack the conservative group leadership for hosting her. The text of his email follows:
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: <The_Office_of_the_President@ fordham.edu>
Date: Fri, Nov 9, 2012 at 2:17 PM
Subject: University Statement
University Statement on Ann Coulter Appearance | November 9,
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
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