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‘So to Speak’ Podcast: Jason Riley on Being ‘Disinvited’ from Campus

By September 8, 2016

Earlier this year, Jason Riley was “disinvited” from speaking at Virginia Tech due to concerns his writings on race would spark campus protests.

The Wall Street Journal columnist, Fox News commentator, and Manhattan Institute senior fellow wasn’t alone in seeing an invitation to speak on campus revoked over concerns that his appearance might prove controversial. He was in distinguished company.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, columnist George Will, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, and hip hop artist Common were all similarly disinvited from speaking on a college campus in recent years.

These disinvitations are part of a troubling trend whereby individuals and groups seek to prevent controversial speakers from appearing on campus. According to FIRE’s disinvitation database, since 2000, there have been 312 disinvitation attempts on campus. 128 of them—more than 40 percent of those—have come since 2012.

Our guest on today’s show had a rare disinvitation experience. Jason Riley happened to be reinvited after he blew the whistle on his disinvitation in a column for The Wall Street Journal.

The series of events that followed Riley’s disinvitation is a case study not only in the power of mass media to expose risk-averse decision-making that stifles free expression on campus—but also in demonstrating the outsized influence just a few outspoken alumni can have in reversing those decisions.

A video of this podcast interview is available at FIRE’s YouTube page.

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