Last week, the announcement that the Georgetown University College Republicans and the Georgetown University Lecture Fund was bringing conservative pundit and commentator Ann Coulter to Georgetown set off a firestorm of criticism from students.
Within a few days, Marissa Brogger (SFS ’13) created a Facebook event titled “Hate Has No Place Here: Oppose Ann Coulter’s Visit to Campus.”
“I started the Facebook event opposing Coulter’s visit to campus not only because I feel personally offended by much of what she says, but more importantly because she uses bigotry and alienation of minority groups in order to justify political positions,” Brogger wrote in an email. “Progressive political dialogue means disagreeing. It doesn’t mean spewing hateful sentiments.”
Coulter is well known for provoking audiences with offensive statements. Coulter once implied that a group of 9/11 widows was enjoying the celebrity status caused by their husbands’ deaths. She has also said that people of the Jewish faith can be “perfected” to Christianity, and that she believes that homosexuals can “pray the gay away.” Coulter is crude, crass, and offensive. Even many conservatives, like myself, do not like her.
But that does not mean that the GUCR and Lecture Fund should not be allowed to bring her. (Full disclosure: I was Chairman of the Georgetown College Republicans last year and have no affiliation with bringing Coulter to campus.)
The outrage over Coulter’s appearance on campus further illustrates the double standard for conservatives brought to campus. In 2006, former Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith received a very chilly reception when he joined the Georgetown faculty. Some of his fellow professors referred to Feith, who had been one of the proponents of the war in Iraq, as a war criminal.
Yet Madeleine Albright, a former Democratic Secretary of State, and Tony Lake, a Democratic National Security Advisor—both of whom oversaw several controversial actions by the American government—joined the faculty without any uproar.
Two weeks ago the Lecture Fund brought liberal filmmaker Michael Moore to campus. There were no protests, no Facebook events decrying the significant amount of student activities fee money spent by the Lecture Fund to bring Moore to Georgetown. The Lecture Fund also spent $10,000 to bring Moore to campus in comparison to the $1,000 that they are spending to bring in Coulter.
A number of those decrying Coulter’s visit claim that what she says goes against Jesuit ideals and therefore the GUCR and Lecture Fund should not be allowed to bring her to campus. Many of Coulter’s statements, especially those concerning religions other than Christianity, certainly go against the Jesuit ideal of being open to other religions.
However, where were these cries about Jesuit values when Moore was invited to campus?
In a 2004 interview with British newspaper The Guardian the filmmaker said, “There’s a gullible side to the American people. They can be easily misled. Religion is the best device used to mislead them.” Without a doubt, attacking the concept of religion goes against Jesuit ideals.
Students, faculty, and administrators have the right to complain about groups bringing speakers to campus who violate the concept of Jesuit values. However, those who wish to complain about a speaker violating those values should stand up against all of the speakers brought to campus that violate these values.
Using the concept of Jesuit values as a straw argument for complaining about a speaker with whom one disagrees undermines the concept of these ideals that our university holds dear. Ann Coulter is offensive and unapologetic about it, but that does not mean she does not deserve to be invited to speak on our campus.
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