I just got a disturbing article concerning my alma mater:
Stanford University, renowned as a global hub of intellectual freedom, says it will bar the public from attending a panel discussion Monday night because one of the speakers is “controversial.”
The speaker, who goes by the name Walid Shoebat, has been making the rounds on the nation’s lecture circuit claiming to be a former Palestinian terrorist-turned-Israeli-sympathizer.
Poor form, Cardinal! The article delves deeper into Stanford’s weak defense of this troubling decision.
Stanford spokeswoman Elaine Ray said security was not the university’s concern.
“We’re not worried about violence,” she said. “This is a controversial speaker, and we want to make sure that our students have a constructive dialogue.”
Ray declined to say what made Shoebat so controversial that attendance should be restricted at the 595-seat Kresge Auditorium.
She acknowledged that Stanford University not only hosts public meetings of divisive figures from time to time but also has faculty members who might be considered controversial.
Asked what other Stanford events are barred to the public, Ray noted that the university restricted access to events featuring Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, author Khaled Hosseini, executive Carly Fiorina and former Vice President Al Gore.
She did not respond to an e-mail asking why those events were closed. Universities often restrict attendance at extremely popular events for space reasons.
By contrast, the public was welcome to attend an event with the controversial DePaul University Professor Norm Finkelstein, who accuses Jews of using the Holocaust to gain sympathy, said Jessica Chernick of Students for an Open Society.
Stanford seems to be channeling New York University’s attempt to stifle discussion of the Mohammed cartoons last year by forbidding the general public from attending. FIRE is watching this case very closely.