Responding to massive student protests, Washington University has uninvited Dancing with the Stars finalist Bristol Palin from speaking at their annual “Sexual Responsibility Week” panel and speaking event.
Originally set to lead a panel of four other representatives and serve as keynote speaker to address “the issue of abstinence in a college setting,” Bristol, daughter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, will be replaced by Kathryn Plax, director of the Adolescent Center at the medical school and pediatrician, according to Washington University’s student newspaper, Student Life.
Scott Elman, president of the Student Health Advisory Committee, said the decision to nix Palin’s appearance was “100 percent mutual” between Palin and the committee. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday that Palin and the advisory committee came to an agreement “that the message that they intended on sharing would be overshadowed by controversy” if she were to go on with her scheduled speech.
Since last week’s announcement that Palin, a 20-year-old unwed mother of one, would be speaking at Sex Week, students have protested and petitioned her appearance. Student Life reported Friday that students were uncomfortable funding Palin’s $20,000 speaking fee, and also concerned that she’s not the best person to speak about abstinence, having given birth at age 18 herself.
Penny Nance, CEO of the Concerned Women for America, told the Daily Caller that Washington University has engaged in censorship by withdrawing Palin’s speaking invitation.
“The fact that Bristol Palin’s perspective was censored by the proponents of abortion proves once again that tolerance only extends to the Left,” Nance told TheDC.
Nance added that the university has now robbed students of a chance to hear an alternative perspective on abstinence.
“They fear the marketplace of ideas. Bristol will be fine, but the students were deprived of thoughts and experience delivered from a new perspective,” Nance told TheDC.
Charlotte Hays, senior fellow of the Independent Women’s Forum, told TheDC that the student protests against Palin’s visit were “absolutely censorship” and telling of the university’s “closed minded” views on the matter.
“I saw some blogs saying ‘University: one, Bristol: zero,’ but I’d say it’s the opposite. The university has lost out big time by holding a conference to explore ideas and being too narrow minded to listen to this idea,” Hays told TheDC.
Hays added that Palin was “very right to quietly withdraw” from the event because the media has made a “sitcom” of the Palin family.
“Bristol is a good person to speak at this sort of thing, she will live wth results of not practicing abstinence for rest of her life,” Hays told TheDC.
Hays said she believes a college campus appearance by Ariz. Sen. John McCain’s daughter Meghan probably would not receive the same kind of backlash as Bristol’s scheduled visit.
“Of the two daughters of the [2008 presidential] Republican ticket, the more annoying is Meghan McCain and nobody would have massive demonstrations against her and that’s because she says stuff the university already agrees with,” Hays told TheDC. “The university was too narrow-minded to listen to Bristol Palin.”
Meghan McCain, a Daily Beast blogger, has received a lot of flak from conservatives for saying last year during midterm elections that former Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell was “making a mockery of running for public office.”
Karin Agness, founder of the Network of Enlightened Women, a group dedicated to promoting education and leadership skills of conservative college women, told TheDC that speaking engagement price tags aren’t given much attention when the speaker is liberal.
“Too often liberal speakers collect big honorariums without the amount even being an issue, yet the amount is scrutinized when it is a conservative speaker,” Agness told TheDC. “This situation demonstrates that conservative groups like NeW are needed on college campuses.”
Elman expressed some disappointment that the student body would be so closed off to the idea of Palin’s presence on campus.
“SHAC stands by our decision to extend an invitation to Bristol, but we understand that a lot of our original intentions for discussing abstinence on campus, as well as sexual responsibility, were going to be lost,” Elman said.