Yale University’s William F. Buckley, Jr. Program has invited Somali-born American activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak on campus Monday night, and the decision has stirred anger on the prestigious Ivy League campus.
Yale’s chaplain, Sharon Kugler, is among the critics of the visit.
In a statement provided to Inside Higher Ed, Kugler lashed out at Hirsi Ali, calling her a “hateful” and “disparaging” person.
“We understand and affirm Yale’s commitment to free expression within an educational context,” Kugler said in the statement. “We are deeply concerned, however, by Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s long record of disparaging, and arguably hateful, comments about Muslims and Islam.”
Kugler wants the Buckley Program to allow speeches by critics of Hirsi Ali, one of the planet’s greatest and bravest campaigners for women’s rights and a very vocal critic of Islam.
“To better represent the whole Yale community and its educational goals, we recommend the organizers consider actions to expand the event, such as allowing concerned students to present their perspectives, or adding a scholarly voice to create a more nuanced conversation,” the chaplain urged.
Kugler does not appear to have objected when noted kiteboarding enthusiast John Kerry spoke at Yale, or when noted adulterer Bill Clinton spoke at Yale, or when television journalist Barbara Walters, who tried to help a former aide to Syrian President Bashar Assad find employment in the United States, spoke at the school.
The prestigious Ivy League bastion’s Muslim Student Association has also bitterly complained about Ali’s impending speech. In a letter signed by representatives from 35 other groups, the Muslim Student Association said it feels “highly disrespected” and similarly demanded that the Buckley Program allow people who disagree with Hirsi Ali to speak, according to Inside Higher Ed.
A Muslim Student Association board member also charged that Hirsi Ali’s remarks will not be protected speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“The difference here is that it’s hate speech, [which] under the law would be classified as libel or slander and is not protected by the First Amendment,” the board member, Abrar Omeish, told the Yale Daily News. “That’s what we’re trying to condemn here.”
Last month, during the august institution’s Freshman Assembly, Yale president Peter Salovey, implored students to be more civil than students have been at other schools and to exercise restraint whenever campus speakers disagree with their politics.
“Invitations to provocative speakers have been withdrawn; politicians, celebrities, and even university presidents invited to deliver commencement addresses have — under pressure — declined to speak to graduates,” Salovey explained, according to Inside Higher Ed. “Although we have not seen these kinds of episodes at Yale in recent decades, it is important on occasions like this one to remind ourselves why unfettered expression is so essential on a university campus.”
Robert Shibley, vice president of the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education, noted that Hirsi Ali’s past criticisms of Islam cannot possibly rise to the level of libel or slander.
“Hate speech doesn’t have a definition in American law, and libel and slander both have to do with individuals not religions,” Shibley told Inside Higher Ed. “It’s sad to see that kind of misunderstanding creeping in among students, and sometimes even faculty.”
Yale’s three-year-old William F. Buckley, Jr. Program, which seeks to bring politically conservative perspectives to the overwhelmingly liberal campus, has stirred animosity among students.
Earlier this month, freshman Helen Price, who fancies herself an excellent debater, said conservative speakers fill her with anxiety because they “essentially make Yale a very uncomfortable place for a large percentage of the people here on campus, and everyone should feel at home at college.” (RELATED: Ritzy Yale Leftist Frets That Conservative Speakers Will Make Campus ‘Uncomfortable Place’)
In the spring, officials at Brandeis University, one of America’s foremost lairs of leftism, chose to take back an honorary degree it was going to bestow during its commencement ceremonies upon Hirsi Ali. (RELATED: The 13 Most Rabidly Leftist, Politically Correct Colleges For Dirty, Tree-Hugging Hippies)