Published: December 3, 2012
My name is Nicholas Milanes. I am currently a senior at Fordham University, the school that your colleague, Mr. Watters, painted as a gated community of dunces through intensive editing and selective exposure in this video. As you can likely tell from my tone, I take issue with your program’s overly-simplistic portrayal of my soon-to-be alma mater and of the controversy surrounding Ann Coulter’s invitation to speak at our campus. Presumably you needed to fill some time in your program, and so you sent the celebrated Mr. Watters off to the Bronx, a borough with which I’m sure he’s thoroughly well-acquainted, to lackadaisically film a few sleepy students walking to class and paint a simple enough picture of a complex situation for your viewers to swallow. Since it’s clear that you lack a proper research team, or simply prefer to gloss over such inconsequential details as our school’s population, administrative activity and recent history, allow me to elucidate the key factors that influenced the university’s backlash against Coulter’s invitation.
Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, Coulter’s invective makes regular use of hate speech that is particularly offensive to our student body. Among her store of racist, sexist and otherwise marginalizing terminology, is a particular fondness for homophobic language. Had your research team done its job– I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt from here on out and assume that you do, in fact, have a research team–they would have found that Fordham is home to a large LGBTQ community. Given that Coulter’s comments more often than not tend to inflame and propagate homophobic sentiments rather than engage in mature, grounded discussion about her views and those of her detractors–exemplified most efficiently in her infamous “Disown Your Son Day” tweet–it stands to reason that the Fordham student body would strongly oppose the College Republicans’ actions.
In recent years, our campus has unfortunately been defaced with graffiti spelling out racist and homophobic slurs. These incidents have engendered fear and uncertainty among our ethnic minority and LGBTQ students in an environment where they are supposed to feel safe and at home. Into this threatened environment the College Republicans decided to invite a woman whose rhetoric propagates homophobic and racist behavior. You wouldn’t invite a Klansman to speak at Fisk University, nor would you invite Coulter to speak at Fordham.
Secondly, the headline splayed across your website–”FORDHAM BANS ANN COULTER”–is false. Fordham University did not ban Coulter. The College Republicans cancelled her speech in response to the backlash of the administration and student body. Your words regarding Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J.–which you coupled with footage of him speaking at a podium, a narratorial decision that I presume was meant to depict him as some sort of censorial fascist–are groundless slander. I quote McShane’s statement, which all students received via email:
“Student groups are allowed, and encouraged, to invite speakers who represent diverse, and sometimes unpopular, points of view, in keeping with the canons of academic freedom. Accordingly, the University will not block the College Republicans from hosting their speaker of choice on campus.”
As you can see, the text plainly states that the university decided not to take any action to censor Coulter. You also claimed that McShane “insulted” Coulter. I’m unsure, as there is nothing resembling an insult in the body of the email, but I believe this is what you’re talking about:
“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.”
McShane is simply stating what is already known. Coulter, a self-branded “provocateur,” seeks only to inflame, not to discuss.
This, thirdly, is the primary difference between Ann Coulter and Peter Singer, who Mr. Watters branded a proponent of infanticide without delving into the complexities of his viewpoints. While we may disagree with Singer’s views, Singer presents his opinions and ideas in a logical, thoughtout manner. The impetus behind Singer’s appearance at Fordham was discussion. Fordham’s founding Jesuit principles emphasize a need for discussion between proponents of varying viewpoints. It is by understanding these viewpoints that we Fordham students can come to embody the principle of cura personalis, the idea of individualized attention and care for others. Coulter’s speeches do not elicit discussion. She does not present her arguments in a rational manner open to debate, nor do her principles in any way supplement our Jesuit education.
I understand that in the current oversaturated media landscape, it’s of utmost importance for programs such as yours to paint the simplest possible narratives for viewers to gobble up piecemeal, rather than slowly consider the various complexities of any given “newsworthy” situation. This occurs in liberal and conservative media alike. However, I would expect the producers of a program with as vast a viewership as yours to feel some degree of responsibility to its viewers and its subjects. In turning the news into cheap entertainment, you have made my school the butt of a poorly-conceived joke and subsequently insulted its every student, professor and administrator. Your lackey, Mr. Watters, scoped out the most dubious-looking students he could find and held them up as representatives of a student body comprised of over eight thousand undergraduates. You then proceeded to call us all idiots.
Mr. O’Reilly, my parents–avid viewers of yours, in fact–and I are drowning in debt so that I can earn the best education I can–an education deserving of my parents’ sacrifices and my grandparents’ sacrifices. There are countless others like me attending Fordham University. We are not mudslinging toddlers who simply wanted to plug our ears and scream. We are not idiots. We are individuals who took action through expression of our opinions–a method of action fundamental to democracy. If you are indeed as committed to lauding patriots and honoring those who champion democracy as you claim to be, you will apologize for the deeply ignorant assault you leveled against me, my place of learning and my classmates.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have exams to study for.
To read The Observer’s complete coverage of the Ann Coulter controversy, click here.