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.

In his piece, Greg lists the “big hitters” who, although initially invited to speak at college commencement ceremonies and other important events, are now finding other things to do on those days:

While Birgeneau, Rice and Lagarde reportedly “withdrew,” it strikes me as unlikely this took place without some encouragement by administrators who got cold feet in the face of angry students and faculty. If the speakers had refused to withdraw, they might have suffered the fate of Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis University earlier this year. Hirsi Ali, an atheist, activist and fierce critic of the treatment of women in Islamic countries, was set to be honored with an honorary degree from the Massachusetts university. When students rallied against her, she refused to bow out. So Brandeis made the decision for her by officially disinviting her in April.

He also explains why booting speakers off campus, or demanding that they not be allowed to speak, is indicative of a serious problem for colleges and universities:

Students and faculty have the right to protest speakers and to criticize their colleges for choosing speakers they dislike. Yet to function as a true “marketplace of ideas,” the university community must be open to hearing from people from different walks of life, professions, experiences and philosophical and political points of view. When students (or faculty, who should definitely know better) work to exclude a speaker from campus, they are thinking like censors, not scholars.

Please read Greg’s article in full on TIME’s website.

Cases:  Nationwide: Colleges Across the Country Disinvite Commencement Speakers