On Nov. 10, under heavy pressure from other students as well as the administration, the College Republicans at Jesuit-affiliated Fordham University cancelled a lecture by conservative political commentator Ann Coulter. The appearance had been scheduled for Nov. 29 at the school’s Rose Hill campus in the Bronx, New York.
Coulter was never the first choice of Fordham’s College Republicans. That honor goes to syndicated columnist George Will, according to The Observer, Fordham’s student newspaper. Will’s fee reportedly exceeds the $10,000 Fordham had made available.
Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain was the second choice. However, the College Republicans were reportedly worried that Cain would back out. Instead, they chose Coulter, only to back out themselves.
When word got around campus that Coulter was slated to speak, a contingent of students objected and quickly sprang into action. Beginning on Nov. 8, a group of students set up a Facebook page, a dedicated email account and an online petition at change.org, reports The Observer. They created an anti-Coulter manifesto as well.
The petition, by Fordham student Amalia Vavala, has since accumulated over 2,000 signatures and is called “Fordham University: We Oppose Ann Coulter Speaking at Fordham.” Vavala concedes that free speech is a right, but argues that Coulter has made a career out of insulting various minority groups.
“[T]here is no room at a university whose motto is ‘men and women for and with others’ for the endorsement of hate speech, especially when portions of the club funding sponsoring this event no doubt come from the tuition paid by all students at Fordham — including students of Muslim descent, black students, children of Hispanic immigrants, queer students, women, people with disabilities, and other groups Ann Coulter has belittled and insulted in the public sphere over the course of several decades, we feel something must be said,” the petition says.
Vavala goes on to accuse Coulter of “immense bigotry, xenophobia, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of intolerance” and asks students to stand “firmly against” intolerance.
On Nov. 9, President Joseph M. McShane, S.J. weighed in on this most pressing matter with a statement, The Observer reports. To his credit, McShane made it clear that the school doesn’t advocate censorship and would not prevent Coulter from speaking.
At the same time, however, McShane made it clear that he is no fan of Coulter or the College Republicans’ decision.
“To say that I am disappointed with the judgment and maturity of the College Republicans, however, would be a tremendous understatement. There are many people who can speak to the conservative point of view with integrity and conviction, but Ms. Coulter is not among them. Her rhetoric is often hateful and needlessly provocative — more heat than light — and her message is aimed squarely at the darker side of our nature.”