St. Thomas University President Dennis Dease announced yesterday that he had made the wrong decision when deciding to bar Desmond Tutu from speaking on campus. In a letter publicizing the decision, Dease states:
One of the strengths of a university is the opportunity that it provides to speak freely and to be open to other points of view on a wide variety of issues. And, I might add, to change our minds.
Therefore, I feel both humbled and proud to extend an invitation to Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak at the University of St. Thomas.
I have wrestled with what is the right thing to do in this situation, and I have concluded that I made the wrong decision earlier this year not to invite the archbishop. Although well-intentioned, I did not have all of the facts and points of view, but now I do.
PeaceJam International may well choose to keep the alternative arrangements that it has made for its April 2008 conference, but I want the organization and Archbishop Tutu to know that we would be honored to hold the conference at St. Thomas.
In any event, St. Thomas will extend an invitation to Archbishop Tutu to participate in a forum to foster constructive dialogue on the issues that have been raised. I hope he accepts my invitation. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas has agreed to serve as a co-sponsor of the forum, and I expect other organizations also to join as co-sponsors.
It is heartening to see that President Dease reversed his decision to ban Desmond Tutu from speaking and hopefully this will serve as a lesson to other colleges and universities.