College Violated ‘Academic Freedom Promises,’ Forced Group To Move Speaking Event Online, Watchdog Alleges

(Screenshot/YouTube/Medical College of Wisconsin)

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) violated its commitment to academic freedom when it barred the Wisconsin Association of Scholars (WAS) from holding its spring symposium after students and faculty complained the speakers were critical of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

WAS’ symposium, titled “Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in Medicine and the Sciences” was scheduled to meet in a MCW facility on May 12 and featured a panel of conservative speakers including National Association of Scholars’ (NAS) Director of University Policy John Sailer, Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and Republican state Rep. Dave Murphy. MCW President John Raymond revoked the chapter’s access to the venue after students and faculty complained about Sailer’s viewpoints, which forced the event to be moved to an online format. (RELATED: Academic Freedom Under Fire As New Report Shows Increasing Sanctions For Scholars’ Protected Speech)

“When the Medical College of Wisconsin suddenly backed out of hosting the Wisconsin Association of Scholars’ Spring Symposium because of heated discussions about the event, it violated faculty and students’ right to receive the information that would have been presented by the speakers,” FIRE program officer Amanda Nordstrom told the DCNF. “That the organization was able to find an alternate venue online does not make up for the college’s violation of its own academic freedom promises.”

FIRE wrote to Raymond on Monday alleging his decision violated the college’s responsibility to respect academic freedom and free expression as required by its accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The watchdog demanded Raymond “publicly reverse course and re-commit” to meeting the school’s “obligations.”

Raymond insisted that his decision was not made because of the speaker’s viewpoints, according to his May 4 letter sent to the campus community. Instead, he alleged that “discussions… about the purpose of the WAS symposium have become unacceptably disruptive.”

“Schools that make promises to protect academic freedom must actually allow open debate to occur on campus – even if conversations leading up to an event become contentious,” Nordstrom told the DCNF.

Johnson, who was prepared to speak about “the censorship during COVID of early treatment and vaccine injuries,” previously told the DCNF that “colleges and universities should be bastions of free speech and diversity of thought” and that “students should be able to freely explore different concepts, ideas and worldviews so they are equipped to lead successful lives inside a free and open society.” Murphy said he was “surprised” the college “would have so much backlash that they couldn’t, or felt like they couldn’t, uphold free speech rights.”

The event will be held on Friday over Zoom, Benjamin Whitcomb, WAS president, confirmed to the DCNF.

MCW did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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