Nationwide: Colleges Across the Country Disinvite Commencement Speakers

Category: Free Speech

Every year around commencement time FIRE prepares for what we call “disinvitation season,” when students and faculty members get together to demand that an invited guest speaker—usually a commencement speaker—be disinvited because they disagree with something that speaker did, said, or believes. In 2014, however, disinvitation season rose to unprecedented proportions with a wave of speakers being disinvited or pressured to withdraw from their speaking engagements. This year’s commencement controversies included professors at Rutgers University joining together to demand that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice be disinvited as their commencement speaker, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde backing out of her planned commencement address, Ayaan Hirsi Ali being disinvited from hers, and many others. However, FIRE’s research shows that while they get the most press around graduation time, speaker disinvitation attempts actually take place on a year-round basis.

  • Commencement Speeches We Will Never Hear

    June 20, 2014

    By Phil Hardwick at Mississippi Business Journal  The 2014 graduation season will be remembered for speeches not made. And that is not a good thing. It is not new for students to protest against the selection of graduation speakers. During the 1960’s, students spoke out and criticized at graduation ceremonies to protest the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Things settled down for a decade or so, but lately the protests have become news again. This time the result is that invited commencement speakers are saying no thanks to the colleges and universities that invited them Let us begin with Former Secretary of State […]

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  • Commencement – a Time to Be Celebrated and a Time to Learn

    June 12, 2014

    Karen Hitchcock at WAMC Each year, graduates of our nation’s colleges and universities participate in an ancient ritual known as “commencement.” They don medieval garb and participate in a ceremony designed to honor their accomplishments and be celebrated by their final “teacher”, the famed “commencement speaker.” For any incumbent university or college president, the choice of such speakers is one of the most difficult faced in the course of the academic year. The very diversity of individuals, opinions and policy perspectives which makes for a vibrant, robust higher education learning environment, also guarantees some controversy around any particular individual chosen to […]

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  • Surprise! Disinvitation Incidents are Up on College Campuses

    June 2, 2014

    By Avi Snyder at National Review Online A new report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) confirms what anyone following the news has known for a long time now: protests against controversial speakers coming to college campuses have become more frequent and more successful over the past several years. “Disinvitation Report 2014: A Disturbing 15-Year Trend” examines “disinvitation efforts at public and private American institutions from the year 2000 to the present.” Data was collected from a number of sources, including news accounts and case submissions to FIRE and other organizations. Over at ACTA’s blog, the Forum, we discuss some of the […]

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  • Abandoning a World of Ideas

    June 1, 2014

    By Augusta Chronicle Editorial Staff at The Augusta Chronicle College is supposed to open one’s mind to a world of ideas. So why are so many college students so closed-minded? And why are their colleges bowing to their demands to silence those with whom they disagree? It has become far too commonplace these days for college speakers, particularly at commencement time, to be disinvited – or discouraged enough to withdraw – after student protests against them. This year the list includes former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali; and Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund’s […]

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  • Big Data Comes under Scrutiny – Facebook Looking for Younger Users – Commencement Protests Soar

    May 30, 2014

    By Stephanie Simon at Politico BIG DATA UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Online learning has exploded in both K-12 and higher education. And the more students click away, the more personal information they reveal — not just about what they know, but about how they think and learn. A conference opening this weekend in California aims to tackle the ethical, technological and academic questions raised by all that data. The workshop, which runs June 1 through 4, brings together sociologists, computer scientists, lawyers, researchers and others to explore the risks and benefits of collecting, storing and mining all the data students shed while engaging […]

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  • The Push Against Campus Speakers is Getting More Intense

    May 30, 2014

    By Greg Lukianoff at The Huffington Post Back in March, I wrote an article about a phenomenon that I kind of assumed already everyone knew about. Within my organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), we call this “disinvitation season,” the time of year when–thanks to high-profile commencement speakers–the push by some students and faculty to get speakers disinvited gets really intense. Media attention this year, however, has been orders of magnitude greater than in any other year, largely because some big names stepped down from giving commencement addresses in the face of protest. This trend was picked up by seemingly […]

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  • Liberal Harvard Groupthink Criticized By… Michael Bloomberg?

    May 30, 2014

    By Robby Soave at Reason Online Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is infamous for his liberty-unfriendly views on racial profiling, gun control and public health. But as the saying goes, even a broken, miserably authoritarian clock is right twice a day. Bloomberg, who delivered the commencement address to Harvard University’s graduating class yesterday, harshly criticized the climate of leftist indoctrination at Ivy League campuses. “There was more disagreement among the old Soviet politburo than there is among Ivy League donors,” he said, noting that 96 percent of Harvard faculty members and administrators donated to President Obama’s re-election campaign. Bloomberg warned that some campuses seem […]

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  • The Commencement Disinvitation Season

    May 30, 2014

    By Peter H. Schuck at The Huffington Post On our elite campuses, the venerable, august Commencement exercise has taken on a new significance. Until very recently, it was a photogenic occasion, a pleasant rite of passage, in which new graduates and their families were treated (or subjected) to forgettable speeches and predictable advice-giving by eminent windbags of various stripes. Today, the Commencement season features a succession of embarrassed announcements either that the colleges and universities have rescinded their invitations to certain speakers, or that the invited speakers themselves have decided not to appear for the occasion (for a full report on this […]

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  • College Campuses See Dramatic Spike in Speaker Disinvitations

    May 29, 2014

    By Christopher White at The College Fix Universities have experienced a dramatic spike in the rate at which campus guest lecture and commencement speaker invitations are jettisoned because some students and faculty don’t like what the speakers have said or done in the past. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education on Wednesday released a report which found that since 2000, there have been at least 192 reports of disinvitation incidents involving campus speakers, including campus speeches, commencement ceremonies, and other events. “The data demonstrates an upward trend in the frequency of disinvitation attempts, with a sharp rise beginning in 2007 […]

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  • Universities Cater to Intolerance, Cancel Controversial Speakers at Alarming Rate

    May 29, 2014

    By Robby Soave at Reason Online In the wake of the successful campaigns to prevent the commencement addresses of three high-profile speakers—Condoleezza Rice at Rutgers University, Ayaan Hirsi-Ali at Brandeis University and Christine Lagarde at Smith College—many censorship-weary spectators of higher education fretted that “disinvitation season” seemed worse than ever this year. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) now has data to back up those fears. Since 2000, an increasing number of campus speakers faced both informal and formal muzzling at the hands of students, faculty and administrators eager to disrupt the presentation of viewpoints they don’t like, according to FIRE’s latest report. […]

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  • Academia’s Cowardice in the Face of Contrary Ideas

    May 26, 2014

    By The Editorial Board at The Arizona Republic Has the academy ever been this weak? We ask because we don’t know what to make of all the shrinking violets at U.S. colleges and universities who fear the freely expressed views of commencement speakers they can’t tolerate. This year, students and professors at Brandeis, Rutgers and Smith College have rebuffed such luminaries as human-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde. Hirsi Ali was unfit for a Brandeis honorary degree because she bluntly critiques the faith of her […]

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  • It’s Speech Season on Campus — and It’s Notable for Ones Not Given

    May 21, 2014

    By Susan Reimer at The Baltimore Sun It is the season for graduations and graduation speeches, most of which dissolve into the sunshine, remembered by no one, but particularly not the happy graduates. That is changing. The season is now memorable for the speeches that are not given, the speakers having been driven off by student activists. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice withdrew from her scheduled appearance at Rutgers after students protested her acquiescence to President George W. Bush during the war in Iraq. This is the same Rutgers that paid “Jersey Shore” star Snooki $32,000 to speak in 2011. International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde withdrew from her scheduled commencement speech at Smith […]

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  • How US College Graduation Season Became a Political Minefield

    May 20, 2014

    By Nick O’Malley at The Sunday Morning Herald In the United States it is graduation season, which means across the country leading universities have spent the past few months trying to secure commencement speakers of significant enough stature to justify fees that reach $65,000 a year. Traditionally commencement speakers have offered graduating classes sage advice on how to chart a course in the adult world. This year the first adult decision many of these graduating classes have made has been to object to their commencement speakers, causing many universities – and speakers – significant frustration. Student protesters have proved particularly effective […]

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  • Commencement Season Question: Shall We Only Listen to the Voices in Our Own Heads?

    May 20, 2014

    By Lois M. Collins at Desert News When I headed off to college many years ago, my mom warned me not to let the liberal ideas that float around a university campus change my basic belief system. My dad told me to embrace all the ideas I could wrap my head around — to listen to disagreements and their individual supporting arguments, to pay attention to ideas that were counter to mine and to walk away more informed and better able to articulate my views on the world. Being wrong and changing one’s mind is not a bad thing, either, he said. […]

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  • Open Season on Free Speech

    May 20, 2014

    By Kevin Cullen at The Boston Globe How can we miss the holy rollers at the Catholic Action League when they won’t go away? Last time we heard from our local God squad, they were having the vapors over Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny, receiving an honorary degree from Boston College. To its credit, BC ignored the zealots, not to mention the archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who refused to attend commencement because those heathens at The Heights had the audacity to invite someone who chose to obey his nation’s Supreme Court and create an exception to Ireland’s prohibition against abortion when […]

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  • Dan K. Thomasson: Idealogues Squelch Freethinking at Commencement Speeches

    May 20, 2014

    By Dan K. Thomasson at Arizona Daily Star While attending my oldest granddaughter’s graduation from a major Virginia university a year ago, I was somewhat curious about the lack of a commencement speaker. There was instead a six- or seven-minute statement by the dean of her particular college — the largest in the school —praising the newly minted graduates and wishing them luck. I was told that because of the size of the class and ancillary requirements like the awarding of faculty and student academic honors, the school decided to forgo the usual celebrity pep talk. I accepted this as sensible and plausible, but […]

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  • You Thought “Disinvitation Season” Was Over

    May 19, 2014

    By Jane S. Shaw at National Review Online It isn’t. More than 60 students and alumni of the Harvard Graduate School of Education have protested the selection of Michael Johnston, a Democratic state senator in Colorado, as commencement speaker.  In a rather verbose letter (what are they teaching at that school? not writing), the group of several dozen has asked the school to rescind his invitation. The pith: Senator Johnston embraces a vision of education reform that relies heavily on test-based accountability while weakening the due process protections of teachers, a vision that we believe ultimately harms students and communities. Truly a dangerous person […]

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  • Student Protests Drive Away Notable Commencement Speakers

    May 18, 2014

    By Olivia Vanni at U.S. News & World Report With commencement ceremonies quickly approaching for colleges across the country, now is the time for seniors to celebrate their accomplishments and receive the bachelor’s degrees that they worked so hard to earn. But for certain schools, now is also time for controversy surrounding their choice of commencement speaker.  Some student protests against their colleges’ selection has been vitriolic enough to make notable figures step down as commencement speakers. The Associated Press explains that there have been several accomplished individuals who have opted to walk away from these oratory opportunities, including the International Monetary Fund Director Christine […]

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  • Harvard Latest School Moving to Oust Graduation Speaker

    May 18, 2014

    At Fox News In what seems to be a trend, another college is being urged to rescind its invitation to a graduation speaker. This time the school is the Harvard Graduate School of Education, which is scheduled to hold its commencement May 28. The target is Democratic Colorado state Sen. Michael Johnston, an education reformer, who was invited last month to give the school’s 2014 commencement address, the Washington Post reported Saturday. Dozens of students and alumni at the school are unhappy over the selection. They have issued a statement that accuses Johnston of embracing “a vision of education reform that relies heavily […]

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  • Don’t Silence Commencement Speakers

    May 18, 2014

    By Steve Chapman at Chicago Tribune “Oh, that my enemy would write a book,” goes the old wish, coined by someone who knew there is no better way to expose fools than through their own words. It’s an idea that deserves consideration from the college students and faculty unhappy with their schools’ choice in commencement speakers. The usual response to such invitations is to demand that they be revoked. This year, critics cowed Brandeis into yanking its offer to anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Outrage at Rutgers prompted former Secretary of StateCondoleezza Rice to withdraw, and when howls went up at Smith, International Monetary Fund […]

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  • Mere Disagreements No Excuse to Dump Graduation Speakers

    May 17, 2014

    At The Boston Globe The Poet Robert Frost once called college “a refuge from hasty judgment.” What it’s not is a refuge from all contrary opinions. This year, there’s been a disturbing pattern of commencement speakers bowing out under pressure from students and faculty who simply dislike their views. Christine Lagarde, the first woman to head the International Monetary Fund, was supposed to speak at Smith College, but nearly 500 people signed an online petition asserting that the IMF is a “primary culprit” in pushing “imperialist and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide.” Lagarde pulled out earlier this week, as she […]

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  • On Some Campuses, Commencement Speakers Not Welcome

    May 17, 2014

    By Mary Beth Marklein at USA Today The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education calls it “disinvitation season” – the annual spring standoff between college commencement speakers and the graduating seniors (and others) who will be in the audience. Former U.S. secretary of State Condoleezza Rice won’t be speaking at Rutgers University Sunday. Students and faculty objected to her role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde won’t be appearing at Smith College’s commencement exercises Sunday. An online petition at the women’s college had called for her ouster, saying she represents a “corrupt system” that oppresses and […]

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  • Pomp and Protest: 11 Controversial College Commencement Speakers

    May 16, 2014

    By Marisa Kabas at Today.com College commencement season is well under way, but this year, the pomp and circumstance is being met with controversy.  This month, student protests prompted former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and current International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde to cancel their speeches at prominent university graduations. Their reason for standing down? Rice and Lagarde both said they didn’t want to distract from the graduates’ big day. Over the past two years, two dozen graduation speakers have either withdrawn or been disinvited by universities because of their personal or professional views, reported Peter Alexander on TODAY Friday. […]

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  • Graduation Season Becomes Dis-Invitation Season for College Speakers

    May 16, 2014

    By Madison Russ at Philadelphia Business Journal From Rutgers to Brandeis to Smith College, the list of protests about college graduation speakers continues to grow — and Haverford College has joined the fray. Speaker Robert J. Birgeneau, a former chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley, withdrew from this weekend’s event. Students objected Birgeneau’s invitation due to his role as chancellor during the Occupy Cal riots. Haverford students issued a list of demands to Birgeneau that included a formal apology for police violence towards protestors. During the 2011 riots, police allegedly beat students and professors with batons after protestors made a human chain. Birgeneau, […]

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  • ‘Disinvitation Season’ on Campus

    May 16, 2014

    At Lancaster Online Last year, in a commencement address at Millersville University, Gov. Tom Corbett challenged 2013 graduates to “reach for the stars.” “Today, you are enrolling in the university of life,” he told them. “It is the best, sometimes most demanding, teacher.” Corbett’s remarks were meant to both inspire and challenge the 1,109 graduates. But they likely would be left unsaid if today’s crop of left-leaning students and liberal faculty members had gotten their way. At colleges around the country, a number of commencement speakers have either withdrawn or were disinvited recently, following student and faculty protests. Those who complained […]

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  • Disinvitation Season

    May 16, 2014

    By Bill Miller Sr. at The Missourian There are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of college and university graduates who today could not tell you who the speakers were at their graduation ceremonies. Does this open the questioning of the value of having a “big name” graduation speaker? This came to mind when we learned lately of the increasing number of graduation speakers who were invited and then “debooked” because students and/or faculty objected for whatever reasons. Some of those who were invited and then sacked because of protests probably should never had been invited. Others were treated unfairly. Greg Lukianoff, […]

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  • Campus Throwdown: Students Are Forcing out Graduation Speakers

    May 15, 2014

    By Matt Pearce at Los Angeles Times With a few exceptions, most graduation speeches are forgettable: Work hard. Chase your dreams. Don’t give up. But the most forgettable graduation speech of all is the one that never happens, which seems to be happening more and more these days. At least three prominent leaders — former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, and former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau — cancelled their commencement speeches this spring after a typhoon of campus activism. Consider what happened this week with Birgeneau, who had been scheduled to speak […]

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  • Everything is Political These Days. Even Commencement Speeches.

    May 14, 2014

    By Katie Zezima at The Washington Post It’s the end of the school year, which means caps and gowns, graduation parties and, lately, commencement speakers who withdraw at the last minute amid controversy. International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde became the latest graduation speaker to back out after student protests, telling Smith College Monday that she will not be speaking at its May 18 ceremony. As more and more speakers back out of what is traditionally seen as a speech less about politics and more about dispensing pearls of wisdom to newly minted graduates, two factors are at play: politics (don’t […]

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  • Who’s to Blame For All the Commencement Debacles?

    May 14, 2014

    Tyler Kingkade at The Huffington Post As commencement seasons go, 2014 has hosted an unusually high number of protests against accomplished individuals and government leaders invited to speak. Who’s really at fault here? The answer is there isn’t one group that deserves all the blame. In recent days and weeks, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde, former University of California-Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau have all canceled scheduled commencement addresses. There are, I believe, several places to assign blame. The Activist Students And Faculty The protests against commencement speakers have largely been driven by left-wing students […]

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  • As College Students Walk, Speakers Walk Away

    May 14, 2014

    By The Associated Press at ABC News Forget about their students not making it to graduation. Now colleges have to wonder whether their speakers will. From former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the head of the International Monetary Fund and the ex-chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, the list of commencement speakers backing out following student and faculty protests continues to grow. Former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, a champion of students in the country illegally, had been scheduled to speak at Haverford College’s ceremony in the suburbs of Philadelphia, but was opposed over the use of force by […]

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  • As More Speakers Get the Boot, Who’s Left to Send off Graduates?

    May 14, 2014

    By Eric Westervelt and Juana Summers at NPR Graduation Season? More like Disinvitation Season. As students across the country prepare for pomp and circumstance, college and university administrators are grappling with a series of commencement speech boondoggles. This year alone, nearly a dozen big-name commencement speakers — including the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — have been invited to speak at graduation ceremonies, only to withdraw or have their invitations rescinded in the wake of campus protests. “It’s not necessarily that all that many people get disinvited, but students and faculty […]

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  • Latest Campus Trend? Tossing out Graduation Speakers

    May 14, 2014

    By Aliyah Frumin at MSNBC A former secretary of state, the head of the International Monetary Fund, a university chancellor. All high-profile speakers on the prestigious college commencement address circuit. And yet each one was shamed – by students and even some faculty – into backing out of coveted invitations this graduation season. Feisty campus dissent is back. And it’s winning. In the last few weeks alone, campaigns at three schools forced commencement speakers to pass up significant speaker fees rather than face angry campuses. The last-minute cancellations have proved embarrassing to school leaders and have raised concerns about free speech […]

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  • Today’s College Motto: Shut up Already

    May 14, 2014

    By Debra J. Saunders at SFGate First the censorious left went after Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born critic of Islam’s treatment of women, after Brandeis University had invited her to receive an honorary degree. Bowing to political correctness, Brandeis rescinded the invitation. Then the academic mob went after Rutgers’ choice for commencement speaker, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She withdrew. Next, student activists went after International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde - because the IMF is “a primary culprit” in economies of “the world’s poorest countries” – and she bowed out of a speech at Smith College. On Tuesday, former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau became the latest public figure to […]

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  • Caving on Commencement Speakers Is Censorship, Not Scholarship

    May 14, 2014

    By Greg Lukianoff at Time It’s the time of year when efforts heat up by student and faculty to get speakers they dislike disinvited from campus. Every spring, the campus “disinvitation” movement seems to get more intense, and this year its participants have claimed some high-profile scalps. On Tuesday, former University of California Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced he would withdraw from his address at Haverford College in the face of student protests. Dr. Birgeneau, who seemed to most like a safe choice, was apparently unwelcome because of his alleged mishandling of Occupy Wall Street protests on his campus. One day earlier, Christine Lagarde, […]

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  • Protesters Force IMF Chief to Cancel Speech

    May 14, 2014

    At The Nation Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund chief, has withdrawn from delivering her commencement address at a women’s liberal arts college, citing protests against her and the fund that the students call “a primary culprit in the failed developmental policies implanted in some of the world’s poorest countries”. “This (the Fund’s role) has led directly to the strengthening of imperialist and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide,” said an online petition against Lagarde’s appearance at Smith college. For years, critics of the IMF have charged that in providing economic aid to poor nations, it has imposed conditions […]

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  • What if College is Making People Stupid?

    May 13, 2014

    By Seth Mandel at Commentary Magazine International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde has become the latest commencement speaker to be chased off by American academia’s guardians of the eternally closed minds. After protests over Lagarde’s planned graduation speech at Smith College from professors and students, Lagarde bowed out, echoing Condoleezza Rice’s tactful statement about not wanting to derail the celebratory atmosphere of the day. The Washington Post sums it up perfectly: “The commencement speaker purity bug has hit Smith College.” Calling it a “bug” is the right classification, for it is certainly both a defect and an apparently contagious infection that demonstrates the extent […]

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  • Only Boring Graduating Speakers Allowed

    May 13, 2014

    At Chicago Sun-Times How polarized is this country? So polarized that protests erupted when Michelle Obama — a socialist radical only to those with fevered minds — was scheduled to give the commencement address this spring at a high school in Topeka, Kansas. The first lady will speak instead at an event the day before. And so polarized that protests erupted when Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund — a willful oppressor of underdeveloped countries only in the minds of some on the far left — was scheduled to give the commencement address at Smith College in Massachusetts. Lagarde […]

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  • Protesting Commencement Speakers: What Happened to Free Speech on Campus?

    May 13, 2014

    By Amanda Paulson at The Christian Science Monitor The decisions by both International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde and Robert Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University of California, to withdraw as planned commencement speakers are only the latest in a rash of controversies this commencement season. Other planned speakers, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, women’s rights advocate Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, have all either been disinvited from speaking or withdrew in the face of significant student protest. The phenomenon isn’t new; it’s become such a rite of passage in the […]

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  • IMF’s Lagarde Won’t Speak at Smith, Part of a Growing List

    May 12, 2014

    By Douglas Belkin at The Wall Street Journal The head of the International Monetary Fund on Monday joined an elite group—those whose plans to give commencement addresses this graduation season were derailed by student or faculty protests. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, was scheduled to speak this coming Sunday at Smith College, but she withdrew her name after nearly 500 people signed a petition objecting to the policies of the IMF. Similar outcries foiled speaking engagements by former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice at Rutgers University and human-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis University, among several others. “I call it disinvitation season,” said Greg […]

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  • After Protests, I.M.F. Chief Withdraws as Smith College’s Commencement Speaker

    May 12, 2014

    By Richard Perez-Pena at The New York Times A week before she was to speak at the Smith College commencement,Christine Lagarde, chief of the International Monetary Fund, has withdrawn from the event, citing protests against her and the fund, the college said Monday. Her withdrawal comes after Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, withdrew from speaking at the Rutgers University commencement in the face of protests against her role in Bush administration foreign policy, and weeks after Brandeis University rescinded its invitation to the rights advocate Ayaan Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree at its commencement, after protests over her anti-Islam statements. Such reversals have […]

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  • Pomp and Circumstances: Booted Speakers Raise Academic Concerns

    May 2, 2014

    By Bill Briggs at NBC News Colleges and universities brace annually for “disinvitation season,” those thorny weeks before graduation when speakers flunk out due to politics, political correctness, or, in one recent case, years-old sex images that found their way onto the Internet. The unwelcome wagon has grown increasingly crowded in recent years, and some free-speech experts contend those moves send an unhealthy message to an audience full of degree recipients in their caps and gowns. Invitations extended to nine speakers this year raised the ire of students or professors, prompting protests, the threat of at least one boycott –- […]

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  • Greg Lukianoff Reflects on the Brandeis Affair

    April 15, 2014

    By George Leef at National Review Online Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and author of Unlearning Liberty, writes on Huffington Post about the shameful affair at Brandeis. He points out that quite a few other schools have seen similar moves — students, faculty, and others ganging up to demand the disinvitation of someone who had been invited to campus because they don’t like what that person has said or done. It’s all part of the absurd notion that people (at least people in certain groups) have a right not to be offended, and thus they’re entitled to […]

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  • Three Points You Must Not Overlook in Discussing the Brandeis/Hirsi Ali Controversy

    April 14, 2014

    By Greg Lukianoff at The Huffington Post Ever since Brandeis University decided last week to revoke an honorary degree it was poised to grant to controversial women’s rights activist and atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Internet has blown up with discussion, with some people condemning the decision, others defending it, and still others playing the culture war role of saying,“Double standard! I bet you wouldn’t feel this way if Hirsi Ali was criticizing a religion other than Islam.” So, in other words, it’s a typical culture war fight on the Internet. There are a few points, however, that I believe any serious and […]

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  • Brandeis Caves In To The “No Platform For Our Opponents!” Crowd

    April 14, 2014

    by George Leef at Forbes Online There is a growing trend on American college campuses, a trend that augurs badly for free speech and robust debate. I refer to the way various groups of people use expressions of hurt feelings to trump speakers they disagree with. The most recent manifestation of this was at Brandeis University. Brandeis had invited the Somalia-born Ayann Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary doctorate and speak at the university’s commencement exercises. Her remarkable story is certainly worth honoring. She fled her native Africa to avoid one of those “arranged marriages,” finding asylum in The Netherlands. While […]

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  • “Disinvitation Season” Is in Full Bloom

    April 14, 2014

    By Jesse Saffron at National Review Online In his inaugural Phi Beta Cons post, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Robert Shibley wrote about some of the threats to free speech on American campuses. In recent months and years, a dangerous kind of political correctness has permeated colleges and universities. This brand of PC has stifled open and honest debate by silencing speakers and public figures whose views happen to clash with some (usually left-wing) campus constituency. Rather than listen to “the other side” present his or her point of view, such campus groups want their avowed enemies banned and blacklisted. Unfortunately, that barbaric mob […]

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  • Reflections of an Ashamed Brandeis Alum

    April 11, 2014

    By Avi Snyder at National Review Online Here at NR, Charles Cooke and Tom Rogan have already written thoughtful pieces on Brandeis University’s shameful disinvitation of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And many others have editorialized eloquently about the issue. But I’m taking the opportunity to chime in, because this time, it’s personal. As a proud alumnus of Brandeis University (’13), I was very pleased when I read about the remarkable individuals Brandeis had chosen to honor at this year’s commencement, Ayaan Hirsi Ali among them. Hirsi Ali has overcome almost unimaginable obstacles to become the advocate for women’s’ rights and free speech she is today. I am aware of Hirsi […]

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  • Brandeis Bows to Islamic Censorship

    April 11, 2014

    By Brent Bozell at Townhall.com It’s graduation time. Many college students are preparing for their commencement ceremonies. On some campuses, some students are playing a game of what we might call “Dump the Speaker.” Conservative speakers chosen to deliver commencement addresses are being howled off campus by leftist student organizations and faculty as well. It’s either a left-wing speaker — or none. Rutgers University recently faced this by inviting Condoleezza Rice and refused to budge. But Brandeis University has just knuckled under to student and faculty protests over its announced speaker, author Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She was disinvited. You’d think […]

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  • University’s Decision to Rescind Degree to Critic of Islam Not Going Over Well

    April 10, 2014

    Robby Soave at The Daily Caller The decision made by Brandeis University to cancel the conferral of an honorary degree on Ayaan Hrsi Ali, a fierce critic of radical Islam, has drawn the ire of free speech enthusiasts who believe Brandeis succumbed to political correctness in service of religious fundamentalism. Hirsi Ali was raised as a Muslim in Somalia, and survived mutilation and an arranged marriage by escaping to the Netherlands. She was a member of Dutch parliament, and wrote the screenplay for “Submission,” a film that criticized Islam. The film’s director, Theo van Gogh, was assassinated by an Islamic […]

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  • Re: The Shame of Brandeis

    April 10, 2014

    By Michael Rubin at Commentary Magazine John Podhoretz rightly castigates Brandeis for rescinding an honorary degree for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an important critic of the manner in which many women are treated in the Islamic world. While I do not always agree with Ayaan, whom I have met two or three times, John is absolutely right to call the decision of the president of Brandeis an act of a “gutless, spineless, simpering coward.” That said, it’s important not to see such an act in isolation, for what happened at Brandeis is increasingly the rule rather than the exception. When I was in […]

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  • Experts Rail Against Brandeis U.’s Capitulation to Islamic Extremism

    April 10, 2014

    By Robby Soave at The Daily Caller The decision made by Brandeis University to cancel the conferral of an honorary degree on Ayaan Hrsi Ali, a fierce critic of radical Islam, has drawn the ire of free speech enthusiasts who believe Brandeis succumbed to political correctness in service of religious fundamentalism. Hirsi Ali was raised as a Muslim in Somalia, and survived mutilation and an arranged marriage by escaping to the Netherlands. She was a member of Dutch parliament, and wrote the screenplay for “Submission,” a film that criticized Islam. The film’s director, Theo van Gogh, was assassinated by an […]

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  • Colleges Vie for Big-Name Commencement Speakers

    April 7, 2014

    By Collin Binkley at The Columbus Dispatch Some colleges don’t hire graduation speakers. Others reserve the podium for alumni. But for those who want a top name, this season can be a battle. Schools pay premium fees to attract names that students and families will recognize. A speech might last only 20 minutes, but for winners of the top acts, experts say, a high-profile name can be a token of pride for years. “They go for the biggest celebrity they can afford,” said Mike Frank, owner of Speakers Unlimited, a booking bureau based in Columbus. “They do it for prestige, to […]

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  • Commence the Firestorms

    April 6, 2014

    By Susan Snyder at The Philadelphia Inquirer Since Rutgers chemistry professor Robert Boikess successfully urged faculty last month to oppose Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker for her role in the Iraq war, he has been called “racist,” “liberal” – and worse. The selection of the former secretary of state has set off nothing short of a firestorm on campus with Boikess and his colleagues planning a “teach-in,” launching a website to build opposition, and filing a flurry of public records requests aimed at uncovering how Rice was invited. Student government held its own spirited debate, ultimately voting to welcome Rice. And […]

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  • Time to Put an End to ‘Disinvitation Season’

    April 1, 2014

    By Robert Shibley at National Review Online By now, many have heard about the dispute at Rutgers over its selection of Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker. Rutgers, to its credit, is sticking to its guns. But what my colleagues at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) have dubbed the annual “disinvitation season” rolls on nonetheless. The latest absurd row is over the invitation to Greg and Susan Gianforte to give commencement addresses this year at Montana Tech and at Rocky Mountain College. The Gianfortes are multi-millionaires who two years ago sold their Bozeman, Montana-based business, RightNow Technologies, to Oracle for a reported $1.5 billion. […]

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  • Freedom of speech for Condoleezza Rice!

    March 20, 2014

    by Dick Polman at NewsWorks Ah yes, the traditions of early spring: budding trees, budding ballplayers, and budding campus brouhahas. Especially the latter. Just check out the current flap at Rutgers University, where some liberal litmus-test professors are demanding that the school cancel its commencement invitation to Condoleeza Rice.Welcome to “disinvitation season,” the time of year when colleges and universities – alleged bastions of open-ended intellectual inquiry – all too often flirt with censorship. The Rice story is just the latest example of this sorry phenomenon.Her critics on the Rutgers-Newark campus deem her unsuitable to deliver the commencement address because she helped […]

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  • Is Michael Bloomberg Persona Non Grata at Harvard?

    March 17, 2014

    By Avi Snyder at National Review Online Another day, another college, another effort to protest a commencement speaker. The Harvard Crimson reports that some students have expressed opposition to Harvard’s selection of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg as this year’s commencement speaker. At issue is Bloomberg’s vigorous support for stop-and-frisk policing policies. Harvard College Black Men’s Forum President Rodriguez S. Roberts ’15 also raised questions about the selection of the former mayor. “Harvard’s bringing him to deliver the commencement address could be taken as either an endorsement of this policy or as simple ignorance thereof,” Roberts wrote in an email. “To be honest, […]

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  • ‘Disinvitation Season’ Begins on College Campuses

    March 14, 2014

    By Adam Kissel at Minding the Campus A college commencement is a splendid time to celebrate student achievement. But it’s “disinvitation season” again, as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education observes: the time when intolerant students and faculty advocate against their school’s choice of commencement speaker, sometimes causing the speaker to be disinvited. These power-hungry protesters demonstrate how little they have learned about tolerance in a diverse society where people say and do things that others dislike. And all too often, as at Harvard and at Rutgers, they have learned this intolerance from their own professors. Is former New York mayor […]

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  • Disinvitation Season, Free Speech, and Unlearning Liberty

    March 10, 2014

    by Greg Lukianoff at The Huffington Post Every year around commencement time my organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), gets ready for what we call “disinvitation season.” That is the time, usually early in the spring, when students and faculty get together to demand that an invited guest speaker–usually a commencement speaker–be disinvited, because the students or faculty members disagree with something that speaker did, said, or believes. This year, however, disinvitation season got off to an especially early start with professors at Rutgers University joining together to demand that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice be […]

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  • The Commencement Controversy

    May 11, 2013

    THE actor James Franco at U.C.L.A. John M. McHugh, the former Army secretary, at the State University of New York at Oswego. The commentator Ben Stein at the University of Vermont. All are notable figures who were invited to participate in college graduations in recent years, only to withdraw or be disinvited in the face of campus protests. Commencement season has arrived, and with it a perennial debate over free speech on campus. So far this year, students on at least 10 campuses have protested speakers invited to commencement events. Robert B. Zoellick, the former president of the World Bank, withdrew […]

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  • College Students Get Comfortable—Often, Too Comfortable

    August 22, 2014

    Late last month, The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Eric Hoover took a close look at trends in higher education that suggest that students feel more empowered than ever—but also may be using their power to shut out new ideas.

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  • Pre-Order ‘Freedom From Speech’ Today!

    August 1, 2014

    Not two years after the release of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff is releasing a new (short) book. In this “broadside,” Freedom from Speech, Greg covers several disturbing trends over the past year, from colleges punishing individuals for offensive utterances to the phenomenon of “disinvitation season.”

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  • A Big Year for Campus Censorship

    July 30, 2014

    Yesterday, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff and Senior Vice President Robert Shibley kicked off Minding the Campus’s series on “the year that was” in higher education by writing about some of the past academic year’s biggest trends in censorship.

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  • Former University of California System President Gets Free Speech Right

    July 14, 2014

    Mark G. Yudof, the former president of the University of California (UC) system, recently weighed in on the state of free speech on the American college campus today. Pointing to this year’s “disinvitation season,” Yudof rightly lamented the tendency of too many students to advocate for or condone the suppression of ideas that they consider offensive or abhorrent. This message is especially welcome coming from the former head of an enormous public university system and a former constitutional law professor.

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  • Boston’s WGBH Announces Muzzle Award ‘Winners’

    July 9, 2014

    Boston’s WGBH News has just announced the “winners” of its 2014 Muzzle Awards, given to those who have particularly impeded freedom of speech over the past year. Formerly published in the Boston Phoenix, WGBH has adopted the awards and is continuing the tradition of “singl[ing] out the dramatic and the petty, the epic and the absurd.”

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  • Bloomberg Blasts ‘Disinvitation Season’ in Harvard Commencement Address

    June 3, 2014

    Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered a barnburner of a commencement speech last Thursday at Harvard University. In a widely-noted address, Bloomberg, who received an honorary degree, roundly denounced the phenomenon FIRE has labeled “disinvitation season.”

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  • Protesters at Laney College Disrupt Commencement Speech by Janet Napolitano

    May 29, 2014

    Yesterday, FIRE released an extensive report on “disinvitation” trends since 2000, but we aren’t done reporting on this “disinvitation season” just yet. On Saturday, students at Laney College in California heckled University of California System President and former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano as she attempted to address the graduating class. The Associated Students of Laney College, a student government organization, had called for Napolitano to be disinvited, but those opposed to her visit settled for a mix of silent and disruptive protests during the speech. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, some audience members booed, while others turned their […]

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  • [INFOGRAPHIC] Disinvitation Report 2014: A Disturbing 15-Year Trend

    May 29, 2014

    Yesterday, FIRE released a groundbreaking new report. Detailing data we’ve collected from the past 15 years, we reported that the number of campus “disinvitations”—incidents when members of a campus community have demanded that invited speakers not be allowed to convey their messages on campus—has sharply increased.

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  • New FIRE Report: ‘Disinvitations’ Skyrocketing

    May 28, 2014

    PHILADELPHIA, May 28, 2014—In the wake of high-profile controversies this month over withdrawn and disinvited commencement speakers including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde, and women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has released its first formal report on the phenomenon known as “disinvitation season” on campus. FIRE’s report finds that since 2000, the number of reported disinvitations and demands that speakers be disinvited has skyrocketed—from six in 2000 to 29 in 2013, for a total of 192 such incidents. And while efforts to exclude speakers receive […]

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  • ICYMI: Greg Makes the Rounds to Talk About ‘Disinvitation Season’

    May 23, 2014

    This “disinvitation season,” controversial politicians’ calendars might be clearing up, but FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s has been full. In case you missed it, here is just some of what Greg’s been up to in the past week.

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  • Harvard School of Ed Dean Responds to Calls to Disinvite Commencement Speaker

    May 20, 2014

    At the height of “disinvitation season,” it should come as no great surprise that some students and faculty at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (HGSE) are asking the school to rescind its invitation to planned commencement speaker and Colorado State Senator Michael Johnston. But yesterday, HGSE Dean James Ryan, who selected Johnston for the event, wrote a thoughtful and thorough response to the community standing by his invitation and arguing that commencement speakers should be selected not on ideology, but instead on “whether the person has something of genuine interest and significance to express to our community.”

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  • Replacement Speakers at Haverford and Smith Urge Graduates to Listen to Other Viewpoints

    May 19, 2014

    “Disinvitation season” continues, but at least some students are getting a lesson in what the phenomenon means for open discourse on campus.

    Former Princeton University president William G. Bowen spoke at Haverford College’s commencement ceremony Sunday and criticized those whose demands ultimately led to former University of California, Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau withdrawing from the event. And at Smith College, former Smith president Ruth J. Simmons replaced International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde as speaker after Lagarde backed down in the face of student protests. In her speech, Simmons emphasized the importance of hearing views with which you disagree, even those that are “deeply offensive.”

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  • Greg on ‘Today Show’ This Morning to Talk About ‘Disinvitation Season’

    May 16, 2014

    NBC’s Today Show reported this morning on “disinvitation season,” highlighting the recent controversies in which speakers have been disinvited from university commencement ceremonies or have withdrawn under pressure from critics. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff made an appearance on the show to note that the trend reflects a worrying sense of entitlement on the part of many college students: “The danger here is that we send a message to students that they have a right to only hear from people that they already agree with.”

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  • FIRE President Pens Op-Ed for ‘TIME’ on ‘Disinvitation Season’

    May 14, 2014

    “Disinvitation season” is upon us again, and it seems that more than ever before, major media outlets are taking notice. We noted yesterday that The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, NPR, and MSNBC had all covered the phenomenon. Now, Time magazine has brought its readers’ attention to this problem by publishing an op-ed by FIRE President Greg Lukianoff.

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  • Don’t Save the Date: NYT, WSJ, Fox, MSNBC, NPR Cover ‘Disinvitation Season’

    May 13, 2014

    The Class of 2014 is preparing for graduation by buying their caps and gowns—but let’s hope they weren’t counting on having a speaker for the ceremony. The years-long, snowballing trend of protests against commencement speakers, which FIRE has termed “disinvitation season,” is getting major attention this year from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, MSNBC, and NPR, among many other outlets.

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  • ‘Disinvitation Season’ In Full Swing; IMF Head Next Victim

    May 12, 2014

    Condoleezza Rice. Duncan Lance Black. Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Charles Murray. All of them have been disinvited from speaking at colleges this spring (or put under such pressure that they withdrew from speaking), for, respectively, the political, personal, religious, and scientific controversies surrounding their lives and work. Now those keeping score can add to that list Christine Lagarde, the formerly scheduled commencement speaker at Smith College and current managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

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  • Commencement Invitation Drama Continues; Free Speech Advocates Speak Out

    May 9, 2014

    This spring, FIRE has already brought you the news of women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali being disinvited from speaking at Brandeis University, Condoleezza Rice canceling her commencement speech at Rutgers University after some students objected to her invitation, and Pasadena City College disinviting and then re-inviting Academy Award-winning writer Dustin Lance Black. It’s been a pretty active “disinvitation season” so far, and free speech advocates are speaking up about why this trend is so worrying.

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  • Will ‘Disinvitation Season’ Become ‘Re-invitation Season’?

    May 6, 2014

    Last month, Pasadena City College (PCC) in California disinvited Dustin Lance Black, winner of an Academy Award for the screenplay of Milk, after members of the Board of Trustees learned of the existence of explicit online photos of Black. Referring to a controversy at PCC last year regarding a professor who resigned after admitting to inappropriate relations with students, PCC’s Board chair, Anthony Fellow, tried to distance himself from any possible controversies…

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  • ‘Disinvitation Season’ Rolls On: Condoleezza Rice Cancels

    May 5, 2014

    As we reported here on The Torch, “disinvitation season” got off to an early start this year back in March when faculty and students at Rutgers University urged the institution to rescind its selection of Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker this year. The university reaffirmed its choice of Rice as speaker, but late last week, Rice withdrew.

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  • Disinvitation Season Continues at Azusa Pacific University and Elsewhere

    April 23, 2014

    Azusa Pacific University (APU) in California has “postponed” a scheduled talk by Charles Murray, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and co-author of (among other works) The Bell Curve, citing “the lateness of the semester” as well as “the full record of Dr. Murray’s scholarship.” The university claims that it will host Murray on campus for a “thoughtful and meaningful dialogue” in the 2014–2015 academic year.

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  • Greg on ‘Fox & Friends’ Saturday Morning to Talk Brandeis, ‘Disinvitation Season’

    April 11, 2014

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will be a guest on FOX News’ ‘Fox & Friends’ this Saturday morning to discuss the ongoing controversy surrounding Brandeis University’s reversal of its decision to grant women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary degree. Greg is scheduled to join the program around 7:45 a.m. tomorrow morning, so be sure to tune in!

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  • ‘Disinvitation Season’ Hits a New Low at Brandeis University

    April 9, 2014

    In an act of breathtaking cowardice even for this “disinvitation season,” Brandeis University has reversed its decision to grant an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a women’s rights activist and female genital mutilation survivor who is also an outspoken critic of Islam.

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  • Greg: Condoleezza Rice and the Early Start of ‘Disinvitation Season’

    March 10, 2014

    Here at FIRE, we’ve dubbed the spring “disinvitation season,” because among the many invitations extended for college and university commencement speakers, there are an increasing number of speakers subsequently disinvited because of their viewpoints, professions, or life choices. Last year, I wrote about the phenomenon in mid-May amidst a flurry of disinvitations, but this year things are getting off to an earlier start, as FIRE President Greg Lukianoff notes in The Huffington Post today.

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  • Alice Walker Accepts U. of Michigan’s Post-Disinvitation Re-Invitation

    September 18, 2013

    Torch readers might remember that back in August, The Color Purple author Alice Walker was invited to speak at the 50th anniversary celebration of the University of Michigan’s Center for the Education of Women (CEW)—and then was disinvited. While observers were still speculating about whether the change was due to Michigan donors’ concerns about her criticism of Israel or whether CEW simply wanted to, as it claimed, maintain the “celebratory nature” of their event, Michigan’s Department of Afroamerican and African Studies and CEW invited Walker back. Just last week, Walker accepted that invitation, and she will be giving the department’s […]

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  • University of Michigan Re-Invites Alice Walker After Disinvitation Controversy

    August 20, 2013

    Last week, FIRE’s Samantha Harris reported that the University of Michigan’s Center for the Education of Women (CEW) had rescinded its invitation to The Color Purple author Alice Walker to speak at CEW’s 50th anniversary celebration. According to Inside Higher Ed, CEW and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies are now asking Walker to speak on campus after all—but not at the 50th anniversary celebration. Walker had claimed that she was disinvited because her criticism of Israel offended some university donors. But an email sent to faculty by Provost Martha E. Pollack last Friday stated that the decision to […]

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  • Disinvitation Season: Protected Counter-Speech or Heckler’s Veto?

    May 13, 2013

    It’s graduation season again, and as expected, not all of the commencement speakers invited to speak at universities’ ceremonies manage to make it to the stage. Earlier this month, FIRE reported on Morehouse College squeezing Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Johnson out of the commencement speaker lineup following critical comments he had made about President Obama, and several other speakers have withdrawn from graduation events after student objections over their views. As FIRE President Greg Lukianoff told The New York Times for an article published yesterday, “It does appear that ‘disinvitation season’ incidents have accelerated in recent years, with this year inspiring an uptick […]

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  • More Unsavory Disinvitations: This Time, Nonie Darwish at Princeton and Columbia

    December 10, 2009

    More points were scored recently for the angry “heckler’s veto” when protesters (including at least one Princeton administrator) successfully pressured Nonie Darwish’s student hosts to cancel her speaking events at Princeton and Columbia universities. Darwish is Founder and Director of Former Muslims United. Darwish’s November 18, 2009, speech at Princeton was canceled the evening before she was scheduled to speak, according to The Daily Princetonian, because of her previously expressed views. Both student groups that were sponsoring the event, Tigers for Israel and the American Whig-Cliosophic Society (Whig-Clio), withdrew. Each group gave a different, strange reason for withdrawing. For Tigers […]

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