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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.