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Ann Coulter

ONLINE_Freedom of Speech
(Jessica Hanley/ The Observer)

By TYLER BURDICK
Staff Writer
Published: March 28, 2014

The right of freedom of speech has been the focal point of one of the most important and long-lasting debates in this country, and the rise of the internet and social media hasn’t done anything to deter the proliferation of this issue. While there are many who acknowledge the benefits granted to American citizens under the First Amendment, there are more still who believe that there is a metaphorical line that must not be crossed. These same people would claim that the right of freedom of speech has a limit that ends once a speaker’s words turn offensive or derogatory. Recent prominent examples of offensive opinions have fueled the fires of this discussion. The prime example of the very epitome of offensive behavior is the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), a group of religious zealots with a trademark of actually protesting or declaring intent to protest the funerals of public figures such as Philip Seymour Hoffman and Nelson Mandela. In another example, a professor of Johns Hopkins University, Benjamin Carson, appeared on Fox News in April of 2013 and made a statement that equated advocates of same-sex marriage with those that promote bestiality and necrophilia, releasing a hailstorm of verbal backlash.

Yet, given all this, it is important to remember that the truth of the matter is that freedom of speech is not the same thing as freedom of acceptance. We aren’t obligated to do much more than acknowledge that these abhorrent opinions are allowed to be spoken, which means that we don’t need to agree with them, force ourselves to listen to them, or even allow them within the confines of private places.

I’m not saying that the Westboro Baptist Church represents anything remotely resembling true American or even Christian ideals. However, while there are laws against acts of discrimination and hate crimes, there is nothing that says that one cannot truly be, in their heart of hearts, a bigot, a racist, an ageist or anything of the kind. The only way to silence the voices of those like the WBC and Professor Carson would be to pass a law that only allows “kind words” to be used within the public spectrum, and to do so would be in itself a form of discrimination. It would also represent a level of governmental interference in the lives of individuals that not many would be happy to see and some might even describe as a kind of socialist behavior.

But while it may seem like the hateful bigots and racists have so much power due to the First Amendment to the extent that we cannot silence their disgusting opinions, it is also important to note that we have not exactly been taking this lying down, for we have often retaliated against these people using our own freedom of speech. The WBC, for instance, has been consistently demonized over the years as a result of its hateful behavior. Although it claims to be a Baptist church, it has been denounced by the major Baptist denominations,  the Baptist World Alliance and the Southern Baptist Convention. Professor Carson didn’t escape scot-free either, eventually being forced to withdraw as commencement speaker for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine due to a volley of negative reception from students.

And this is what I mean when I talk about freedom of speech not being the same thing as freedom of acceptance: the offensive criticisms that attack the accepted institutions and norms of our society are not inherently immune from having such criticism shot right back at them. In a way, this is a form of justice and equality for all who seek to benefit from the implementation of the First Amendment. Ultimately, it falls upon an individual who makes a statement to then accept and deal with the consequences of doing so.

Consider the example of Ann Coulter, a conservative social and political commenter known for “stirring the pot” on more than one occasion. Her comments are radically more heavy-handed and offensive than her fellow contemporaries; she has even gone so far as to describe President Barack Obama as a “retard.” In November of 2012, the Fordham University group known as the College Republicans had issued an invitation for Coulter to speak at Fordham, only to ultimately rescind the invitation after the incredibly poor reception from both students and Fordham’s President Rev. Joseph M. McShane S.J. While Coulter has the right to make the oftentimes ridiculous statements she is known for, it is also our right to criticize her for it, and it is her responsibility to stand by her words and accept the criticism that is directed towards her just as others must deal with the criticism she doles out.

It may seem ironic that Coulter was ultimately denied a chance to speak at Fordham while Peter Singer, a philosopher who has advocated for the killing of children with serious disabilities, was not. While Singer’s position appears abhorrent to many, it does strike a chord with certain others, proving that it can be defensible. Charles Camosy, a Fordham theologian, was the moderator at the event in which Singer spoke, and this is a man who has actively defended Singer’s work in the past. The problem many have with Singer speaking lies in his position, not in his deliverance. He doesn’t fall into the same category that Coulter does; taking an anti-Obama position is one thing, but calling him a “retard” is certainly, as Father McShane points out, “needlessly provocative.” It doesn’t mean she has any less of a right than Singer to retain the opinions she does, but her behavior certainly won’t make people be very receptive to her.

In Carson’s case and in Coulter’s, the consequence of their kind of hateful free speech is an incompatibility and negative reception from the universities of Johns Hopkins and Fordham, respectively. In the WBC’s case, it is a near-universal demonization and classification as a hate group, for, in this humble writer’s opinion, that is precisely what they are. In this day and age, we enjoy the power to speak our minds on the issues that concern us most, but we must be ready and willing to accept the consequences of doing so.


By IAN McKENNA
Editor-in-Chief
Published: October 21, 2013

“Under no circumstances will we be rescinding the invitation,” Luke Zaro, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’16 and president of the College Republicans said, regarding the decision to invite controversial right-wing journalist James O’Keefe.

The invitation comes just under a year after the invitation of conservative pundit Ann Coulter. Last year, College Republicans decided to cancel the event in the face of overwhelming dissent from students.

O’Keefe is probably best known for his role as founder of Project Veritas, that “investigate[s] and expose[s] corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud and other misconduct.” Throughout his career, he has exposed varying levels of corruption in organizations like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and Planned Parenthood.

The event is scheduled for Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. in Flom Auditorium and will include a question and answer segment as well as the opportunity to purchase a copy of O’Keefe’s book “Breakthrough: Our Guerilla War to Expose Fraud and Save Democracy,” a New York Times Bestseller.

While some students, including Michael Billotti, Gabelli School of Business ’15 and president of the College Democrats, have expressed concern regarding the event, the reaction is less mild than the almost-instantaneous opposition to the announcement of Coulter’s event last year. For example, the Facebook page “Fordham Rams Against James O’Keefe,” a page not affiliated with the College Democrats, had 67 likes at the time of publication.

In an op-ed to run in this Tuesday’s edition of The Ram, the executive board of the College Democrats offered an “ethical case against James O’Keefe.” The op-ed first apologizes to the Fordham community for the “irresponsibility” of the decision to invite James O’Keefe, claiming that his presence would “delegitimize” the political dialogue between the clubs. The College Democrats are not advocating censorship or to “disenfranchise students from going to the speaking engagement,” but rather aim to inform the student body about “ethically questionable individuals invited to campus.”

By IAN MCKENNA
Managing Editor
Published: February 27, 2013

The College Republicans announced on Feb. 27 that conservative journalist and author George F. Will has been approved to speak at Fordham, in place of conservative personality Ann Coulter.

The typical cost of Will as a guest speaker is listed as “$40,001 & up,” according to the Washington Speaker’s Bureau’s website, an agency that represents Will in speaking engagements.

However, according to Theodore Conrad, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH)  ’14 and president of the College Republicans at Rose Hill, Will will be appearing on campus for a price comparable to other speakers invited to Fordham.  Conrad said he is awaiting final budget approval from SABC. As previously reported here, Coulter was to be compensated with $10,000 before the event was cancelled. The Coulter event was cancelled on Nov. 9, 2012 in response to student backlash against the Coulter and the College Republicans’ decision to invite her.

George Will (Courtesy of The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MCT)
George Will (Courtesy of The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MCT)

At “An Evening with George F. Will,” the OrgSync page for the event states, “Pulitzer prize winning journalist, author, and political commentator, George F. Will, will address the [student] body about current political issues (debt, entitlements, immigration, guns).” The event description also said that the College Republicans “100% expect a capacity crowd, as Mr. Will is the most distinguished and well respected person ever to speak on behalf of the College Republicans at Fordham University.”

The event will be held on April 11 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Keating’s first floor Auditorium.

Theodore Conrad, (FCRH) ’14 and president of the College Republicans at Rose Hill, said about the selection process, “George Will had always been high on our list. So, we immediately tried to pursue him and we were able to make it work.”

“He is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, author, he is highly regarded as one of the pre-eminent conservative writers and thinkers of, certainly, my generation and maybe the generation before me. So, when you look at his complete body of work, he is the type of person that the College Republican group would love to bring to campus,” Conrad said.

Following the Nov. 9 announcement to disinvite Coulter to campus, many supporters, board members, and alumni of the College Republicans were unhappy. “I think everyone is proud that we are bringing a speaker of the caliber of Mr. Will,” Conrad said of the latest announcement.

A dialogue was opened between the College Republicans and Will following the Coulter controversy.

“I have been communicating with Mr. Will directly for the past few months, with him personally and his secretary.  I’ve been trying to figure out a way to bring him up to Rose Hill,” Conrad said.

Even after the public backlash from students of Fordham and even a public, university-wide statement from Fordham President Joseph M. McShane, S.J., Conrad said that he and the College Republicans did not waste time in attempting to “[get] out there and […] find the best speaker, arguably, that we have ever brought to campus.” While many notable speakers have been brought to campus by the College Republicans, Conrad said , “George Will is in a class of his own. And people from the right and left both respect him tremendously for his contributions to the political discourse.”

“I think this was a learning experience for all of us,” Conrad said of the reaction to Coulter, “but we are happy that we are getting a speaker like Mr. Will and I think it is good for our club, it is good for the Fordham community, and we are happy to provide Fordham with such a high-caliber speaker.”

To read The Observer’s complete coverage of the Ann Coulter controversy, click here.

Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Fordham Screenshot
Bill O'Reilly introduces a segment on The O'Reilly Factor about the Fordham College Republicans' decision to dis-invite Ann Coulter from a speaking engagement. (Screenshot courtesy of foxnews.com)


 
By NICHOLAS MILANES
Blog Editor
Published: December 3, 2012

Mr. O’Reilly,
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.

Sincerely,

Nicholas Milanes

 

To read The Observer’s complete coverage of the Ann Coulter controversy, click here.

Faculty members call for “clear statement of the basis for these funding and censorship decisions” from McShane and Fordham administration.

By IAN MCKENNA
Managing Editor
Published: November 15, 2012
Updated: 8:20pm

Tracy Higgins, professor of law at Fordham Law, and Bridgette Dunlap, Human Rights Fellow at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice, with support and input from other Fordham Law faculty members, have written an open letter to Fordham President Father Joseph M. McShane, S.J. in response to the funding of Ann Coulter’s Fordham visit, originally scheduled for Nov. 29 but since has been cancelled. The letter, circulated to Fordham Law faculty by professor of law Steve Thel, asks for a clear stance from the administration on its previously inconsistent support, both in promotion and funding policies, of student groups and events. The letter also asks for support from the student body through a petition form at the bottom of their address to McShane.

The group calls for “a clear statement of the basis for these funding and censorship decisions in light of their manifest inconsistency.”

(Kyle Cassidy/Wikimedia Commons)

“Though the College Republicans withdrew the invitation to Ms. Coulter in light of the outcry from their peers, the problem remains that the University was willing to allocate over $10,000 to this event even while denying funding to other student and departmental initiatives featuring speakers or topics with which it disagrees,” the letter reads.

While the writer celebrates McShane’s decision to distance the university from Coulter’s message it continues to say that “we remain deeply troubled, however, by the University’s inconsistency regarding which events it denies funding or otherwise censors on campus,” specifically bringing the examples of the Vagina Monologues, a controversial event by Fordham undergraduates each year to raise awareness of violence against women.

“[I]t was a wonderful statement that Father McShane made and a very robust defense of academic freedom, discourse, and dialogue, and we want to be sure that we are living up to that and it doesn’t seem that we are,” Dunlap said.

The group also mentions administration’s opposition to Fordham’s pro-choice advocacy while anti-abortion clubs recieve school funding and the red tape faced by Prescribe Fordham 2 events, an off-campus birth control clinic night, in attempting to post flyers in Fordham.

“I think that’s pretty problematic and not reflective of the kind of place Fordham is,” Dunlap said of Fordham’s discrimination between forms of student involvement.”Fordham is a place where we have scholarship and debate and respectful discussion of different ideas. So, we shouldn’t be silencing the legitimate conversations that we ought to be having.”

“Why are these forms of student expression and association denied support while the Coulter event was not? Is pro-choice advocacy or the Vagina Monologues more inconsistent with the University’s mission than Coulter’s hate speech you rightly decry? Are they less entitled to respect in the free exchange of ideas in the Academy?”

While they may be disappointed in the administration for its lack of consistent action, Dunlap said it was “fortunate” how the Coulter disagreement was handled by students.

“I have been very impressed by the poise and constructiveness and thoughtfulness of the undergraduate groups that I have seen working on some of these issues. T]he undergraduates worked it out amongst themselves and I think that is a situation where the solution to what was likely to be pretty problematic speech was more speech and that the undergraduates appealed to each other. I think that is wonderful.”

To read the open letter to McShane in its entirety or to voice your support of the response, click here.

Ann Coulter, conservative writer. (Courtesy of Nicolas Khayati/ABAC Press/ MCT)

By IAN MCKENNA
Managing Editor
Published: November 12, 2012

The cancellation of the Nov. 29 visit of conservative commentator Ann Coulter, organized by the Fordham College Republicans, has drawn attention from more than 100 media sources, including the Huffington Post and Glenn Beck’s website TheBlaze. 

Responses include criticism of Fordham President Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., for his university-wide email rebuke to the College Republicans, his decision to uphold Coulter’s invitation, accusations of cowardice on the part of the College Republicans in their decision to disinvite Coulter, as well as support of McShane and the College Republicans’ decisions.
Salon.com writer Joan Walsh, and mother of a Fordham alumnus, wrote on Nov. 9 that she experienced a “moment of regretting the mega-dollars [she] spent on Fordham,” when she had heard the news that the College Republicans had invited Coulter to speak. However, Walsh celebrated McShane’s “terrific reply” to the decision of the College Republicans to invite Coulter.

On TheBlaze, a website owned by conservative commentator Glenn Beck, writer Erica Ritz alleged American universities are “left-leaning,” and said that McShane “appeared to take it a step further when he singled out the young Republicans on campus.”


 


The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), founded by Patrick Reilly, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’94, with the mission of “strengthen[ing] Catholic identity in Catholic higher education,” questioned “how consistent Fordham’s policy [is] in support of Catholic teaching,” while conceding that the “university’s policy is on the right track.”

The College Republicans decided on  Nov. 9 to cancel Coulter’s scheduled appearance, a decision announced following the development of campus protests as well as McShane’s rebuke.

The visit of Coulter, who recentely called President Barack Obama a “retard,” was approved for funding by the Student Activity Budget Committee at Rose Hill in September. Theodore Conrad, FCRH ’14 and president of the College Republicans, said that Coulter was not the number one choice. The group had originally appealed for conservative author and journalist George Will, but was not awarded the necessary funding.

Chloe Foster-Jones, Marriette Dorobis, Dylan Katz, Faith Donnovan, Hanna Tadevich, Amalia Vavala, Lauren DeLucca, Jenny Park, Laura Tretter, Thomas Welch, Blaire Eberhart and Sarah Kneeshaw, all students of Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’15, began organizing their protest against the event late in the evening on Nov. 8.

The group had several issues with Coulter and the university’s approval of the event, including her personal beliefs and agenda, stating that she presents nonfactual information as factual, supports racism, sexism and homophobia.

“Her beliefs are full of bigotry, hatred, discrimination, and I feel that it is a blatant disrespect of our rights as students,” Katz said.

Many of these students also believed that Coulter was a controversial figure especially considering the several instances of racist and homophobic grafitti on both campuses of Fordham within the last year.

“It scares me that this was so readily accepted and the university would approve an event like this,” Tadevich said of the Coulter event in light of these instances of racism and homophobia.

The group that formed to protest Coulter’s visit published their own Facebook page, set up an email address for student questions and comments and started a Twitter account on Nov. 8. They collected over 2,100 signatures on their petition at Change.org to stop Coulter from making her scheduled appearance at the Rose Hill campus.

Gwenyth Jackaway, associate chair of the communication and media studies program at Lincoln Center, said she was “saddened and disappointed that there are students at Fordham who would want to invite Ms. Coulter to speak here.”

While opposed to Coulter’s political agenda on a personal level, Jackaway said that it should not be the place of the university to dictate who may and may not be allowed to speak on campus.

“The university is meant to be a place for ideas to be discussed, all ideas, even the ideas that offend us the most. In fact, those are probably the ones that we ought to be discussing them most. It is easy to discuss safe topics. We all need practice in learning how to disagree with civility,” Jackaway said.

But her scheduled appearance seemed to provide a challenge for Jackaway.

“That is the true test if you believe in free speech, whether you are willing to defend the rights of those you hate to say things you detest,” Jackaway said.

“Maybe they have given us a gift,” Jackaway said of the College Republicans and their decision to invite Coulter. “The outrage that follows is wonderful for our culture because then we have a conversation. We get to have a discussion about freedom of speech.”

Jackaway’s view was similar to those expressed by McShane in his university-wide message. “To say that I am disappointed with the judgment and maturity of the College Republicans would be a tremendous understatement,” McShane wrote in his email to the Fordham community. He also said that student groups are encouraged to “invite speakers who represent diverse, and sometimes unpopular, points of view.”

“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 said in his university-wide email.

McShane, however, highlighted the fact that “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.” As such, the administration decided to not take action against the College Republicans or the event itself, allowing Coulter to appear and speak as scheduled.

“To prohibit Ms. Coulter from speaking at Fordham would be to do greater violence to the academy, and to the Jesuit tradition of fearless and robust engagement. Preventing Ms. Coulter from speaking would counter one wrong with another,” McShane also included in his email, saying that this instance has created an opportunity for us, as a university, to test our own character.

Early in the evening on Nov. 9, Conrad and his executive board released an email to members of the College Republicans stating that they would not continue with the event as scheduled.

Conrad said that the decision was arrived at in the early hours of Nov. 9, well before McShane sent his email.

“We regret that we failed to thoroughly research her before announcing, that is our error and we do not excuse ourselves for it,” the email read.

“The things that she said are not things our club stands for or anything at Fordham stands for and I feel we would be doing a lot of people a disservice in bringing a speaker like that to Fordham. The bad outweighs the good in this,” Conrad said.

“We were not aware of comments that had been previously made,” Conrad said when the decision to book Coulter as a speaker was made in September.

Conrad and his group took issue with McShane’s criticism of them.

“That wasn’t really appropriate from our university president. I love the president of my school, but I think that if he had reached out to us before writing that email, he would have known [our situation]. I already met with Dean [Christopher] Rodgers and let him know what was going on. I think the president should have reached out to us,” Conrad said in regards to McShane’s open letter to the university.

However, he also said “we hope the university community will forgive the College Republicans for our error, and continue to allow us to serve as its main voice of the sensible, compassionate and conservative political movement that we strive to be. We fell short of that standard this time, and we offer our sincere apologies.”

After the official cancellation of the Coulter event, McShane responded with another university-wide email praising the College Republicans for their decision.

“There can be no finer testament to the value of a Fordham education and the caliber of our students,” McShane wrote. “We can all be proud of Fordham today, and I am proud to serve you.”

Ann Coulter. (KRT/MCT)

For more information on student organization against the Ann Coulter event, Father McShane’s email or faculty and student reactions, click here

By IAN MCKENNA
Managing Editor
Published: November 9, 2012

UPDATED:

On Nov. 10 at 12:46pm, Fordham President Joseph M. McShane, S.J., released a new statement regarding the College Republicans decision to cancel the Ann Coulter event scheduled for Nov. 29 in light of recent student reactions.

Below is the entirety of McShane’s message:

University Statement | Ann Coulter Appearance Cancelled

November 10, 2012Late yesterday, Fordham received word that the College Republicans, a student club at the University, has rescinded its lecture invitation to Ann Coulter.

Allow me to give credit where it is due: the leadership of the College Republicans acted quickly, took responsibility for their decisions, and expressed their regretssincerely and eloquently. Most gratifying, I believe, is that they framed their decision in light of Fordham’s mission and values. There can be no finer testament to the value of a Fordham education and the caliber of our students.

Yesterday I wrote that the College Republicans provided Fordham with a test of its character. They, the University community, and our extended Fordham family passed the test with flying colors, engaging in impassioned but overwhelmingly civil debate on politics, academic freedom, and freedom of speech.

We can all be proud of Fordham today, and I am proud to serve you.

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President


Below, originally posted: Nov. 9th, 6:05pm

“We have decided that it was in our best interest to cancel the event,” Theodore Conrad, Fordham College at Rose Hill ’14, said.

Conrad, president of College Republicans at Rose Hill, has announced that the club is canceling Ann Coulter’s scheduled appearance on Nov. 29 in the interest of the Fordham community.

Ann Coulter. (KRT/MCT)

The decision was arrived at by Conrad early this morning, well before Father Joseph M. McShane, S.J. and president of Fordham, sent an email upholding her scheduled appearance.

“I do take responsibility in not doing the proper research,” Conrad said. “We did not properly vet a potential speaker for Fordham University.”

“The things that she said are not things our club stands for or anything at Fordham stands for and I feel we would be doing a lot of people a diservice in bringing a speaker like that to Fordham. The bad outweighs the good in this.”

“We were not aware of comments that had been previously made,” Conrad said when the decision to book Coulter as a speaker was made in September.

“That wasn’t really appropriate from our university president. I love the president of my school but I think that if he had reached out to us before writing that email, he would have known [our situation]. I already met with Dean Rodgers and let him know what was going on. I think the president should have reached out to us,” said Conrad of Father McShane’s open letter to the university.

“It was hurtful to hear some of those words in regard to our organization,” Conrad said. “A lot of people give a lot of time and hard work. But for him to publicly call us out, not only to the student body but to alumni, I think that was unfair. This club has done a lot of good things on campus and to be recognized publicly for the first time I can remember was unfair and hurtful.”

The group had originally appealed for conservative author and journalist George Will but were not awarded the sufficient funds. In his place, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain was selected as a possible speaker, but after hearing rumors of Cain’s cancelations with other schools while still under contract, they were forced to find another speaker who would cost less than the $10,000 they were given.


Minutes before this post was published, Conrad wrote an email to his executive board and members informing them first of the decision. It can be read in its entirety below.

The College Republicans regret the controversy surrounding our planned lecture featuring Ann Coulter. The size and severity of opposition to this event have caught us by surprise, and caused us to question our decision to welcome her to Rose Hill. Looking at the concerns raised about Ms. Coulter, many of them reasonable, we have determined that some of her comments do not represent the ideals of the College Republicans and are inconsistent with both our organization’s mission, and the University’s. We regret that we failed to thoroughly research her before announcing, that is our error and we do not excuse ourselves for it. Consistent with our strong disagreement with certain comments by Ms. Coulter we have chosen to cancel the event and rescind Ms. Coulter’s invitation to speak at Fordham. We made this choice freely, before Father McShane’s email was sent out and we became aware of his feelings – had the President simply reached out to us before releasing his statement he would have learned that the event was being cancelled. We hope the University community will forgive the College Republicans for our error, and continue to allow us to serve as its main voice of the sensible, compassionate, and conservative political movement that we strive to be. We fell short of that standard this time, and we offer our sincere apologies.

Ted Conrad, President
Emily Harman, Vice President
Joe Campagna, Treasurer
John Mantia, Secretary

Ann Coulter. (Nicolas Khayat/Abaca Press/MCT)
The group, armed with laptops, surrounds a table in apartment 10F of McMahon Residence Hall, monitoring their Facebook and Twitter pages. (Ian McKenna/The Observer)

The event has been cancelled. Click here for more.  

By IAN MCKENNA
Managing Editor
Published: November 9, 2012

UPDATED (7:40pm): 

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President of Fordham University released a statement to the university on Nov. 9, 2012 explaining his reaction to the decision from the College Republicans to invite Ann Coulter to campus. This comes after Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) students have organized a campaign against a scheduled appearance at the university by the right-wing commentator on Nov. 29.

Ann Coulter. (Nicolas Khayat/Abaca Press/MCT)

His statement can be read in its entirety here.

“To say that I am disappointed with the judgment and maturity of the College Republicans, however, would be a tremendous understatement,” McShane wrote in his email to the Fordham Community but said that student groups are encouraged to “invite speakers who represent diverse, and sometimes unpopular, points of view.”

“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 also referenced last year’s string of discriminatory acts of vandalism, saying that he holds out “great contempt for anyone who would intentionally inflict pain on another human being because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or creed.”

McShane, however, highlighted the fact that “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.” AS such, the administration’s decision is to not take action against the College Republicans or the event, allowing Coulter to appear and speak as scheduled.

“To prohibit Ms. Coulter from speaking at Fordham would be to do greater violence to the academy, and to the Jesuit tradition of fearless and robust engagement. Preventing Ms. Coulter from speaking would counter one wrong with another,” McShane also included in his e-mail, saying that this instance has created an opportunity for us, as a university, to test our own character.

The idea that the Coulter event should proceed, despite her representing messages that go against the overall Jesuit traditions of the Fordham community, seems to be mimicked by some parts of the University.

In a memo to her colleagues on the morning of Nov. 9th, Gwenyth Jackaway, associate chair of the communication and media studies program at Lincoln Center, said she was “saddened and disappointed that there are students at Fordham who would want to invite Ms. Coulter to speak here.”

“Some people express their views that seem particularly intended to inflame emotions that can be harmful to the safety and stability of our society,” Jackaway said, referring to Coulter and people from parties across the political spectrum.

While obviously opposed to Coulter’s politics and agenda on a personal level, Jackaway admits that it is not the place of the university to dictate who may and may not be allowed to speak on campus.

“All ideas, even the ideas that offend us the most. In fact, those are probably the ones that we ought to be discussing them most. It is easy to discuss safe topics. We all need practice in learning how to disagree with civility,” Jackaway said.

But her scheduled appearance seems to provide a challenge for Jackaway.

“I feel we have a responsibility to model what tolerance looks like. It is easy to be tolerant of people you agree with. The real test of the liberal sensibility is to model tolerance even to those who are intolerant of tolerance. There is the rub,” Jackaway remarked.

As a professor of the Freedom of Expression course, Jackaway feels strongly that, even though she has become known as a caustic personality, characterized by a vitriolic demeanor, the university should not intervene with Coulter’s scheduled appearance.

In fact, for Jackaway her visit gives us a chance to assess and examine ourselves.

“That is the true test of you belief in free speech, whether you are willing to defend the rights of those you hate to say things you detest,” Jackaway said of the struggle she sees emerging from this situation.

“I think the benefit is the dialogue that is beginning to emerge.”

“Maybe they have given us a gift, Jackaway said of the College Republicans and their decision to invite Coulter. “The outrage that follows is wonderful for our culture because then we have a conversation. We get to have a discussion about freedom of speech.”

Protests against Coulter’s appearance began with students, however, on the night of Nov. 8, before any of these reactions from faculty and Father McShane himself.

The group that formed against Coulter published their own Facebook page , set up an email address for student questions and comments and started a Twitter account, where they have appealed to such political pundits as Rachel Maddow and Bill Maher for coverage. They have also collected, at the time of publication, over   1,700 (updated: Nov. 9, 2:01pm) signatures on their petition at change.org to stop Coulter from making her scheduled appearance at the Rose Hill campus.

The group of students that have organized against Coulter’s appearance includes Chloe Foster-Jones, Marriette Dorobis, Dylan Katz, Faith Donnovan, Hanna Tadevich, Amalia Vavala, Lauren DeLucca, Jenny Park, Laura Tretter, Thomas Welch, Blaire Eberhart and Sarah Kneeshaw, all FCLC ’15.

“We realized that more than just sitting here and racking jokes like ‘oh, we want to egg her,’ we should actually do something about it and start a way for students to protest against this since we knew we weren’t the only ones upset about this,” Tadevich, a resident in 10F where the group has set up a makeshift headquarters, said.

The group has several issues with Coulter and the university’s approval of the event, including her personal beliefs and agenda, stating that she present nonfactual information as factual, supports racism, sexism and homophobia, and the group characterizes her as a hateful bigot.

Some of the commenters against this movement have accused the group of infringing on Coulter’s right to freedom of speech on the Facebook page.

The students have formulated these ideas into what they call a manifesto, which has just been posted to their Facebook page, “Stop Ann Coulter from speaking at Fordham.”

The manifesto reads:

I. Ann Coulter, as an American, is entitled to her opinion and the right to express it.

II. Ann Coulter’s inflammatory rhetoric upsets the Fordham Community because her fighting words directly attack our members.

III. Fordham University is a private institution, not a public forum, and the speakers it chooses reflect on the values of our Fordham community.

IV. Ann Coulter’s self-expression is not compatible with the values the Fordham community professes–particularly the Jesuit tenet of “Men and Women for and With Others”.

V. For these reasons, we feel that our tuition should not pay for Ann Coulter to speak at Fordham University or any Fordham Facility.

Coulter has had a history of this kind of student backlash. In 2010, organizers of a Coulter event at the University of Ottawa were forced to cancel the event in response to student rallys against the conservative figure.

The group plans to attend next Thursday’s town hall meeting at the Rose Hill campus, a weekly event held by the United Student Government at Rose Hill, to discuss the event and its future.

“I think it is great that there will be this bi-campus discussion happening and I hope that this results in a willingness to retract a decision to bring in a speaker. Obvisouly, that is a very hard thing for the university to do when they have already made that decision to bring her in. But I hope they are willing to at least listen and at least we get to hear what they have to say. I am excited about that dialogue but in the end I do hope she doesn’t speak,” Tadevich said.

The original event is scheduled for Nov. 29 from 6:00pm-9:30pm at the Rose Hill campus, according to the event’s OrgSync page has been cancelled: click here for more.

The weekly USG meeting for the Rose Hill campus will be held Thursday, Nov. 15 at 6:00pm in McGinley 237.

The group drafts their manifesto on the window. (Ian McKenna/The Observer)