California State University, Long Beach – September 7, 2016

Long Beach, CA

College administrators cancelled an on-campus performance of the satirical play, N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK (N*W*C), scheduled to take place in the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) on September 29, 2016. The play, written and acted by three former college debate teammates, Rafael Agustin, Miles Gregly and Allan Axibal, was created with the intention of speaking about race in contemporary America. Using comedy, they crafted N*W*C using their own experiences with immigration and racial intolerance, slurs and stereotypes. Although N*W*C had been successfully staged and sold out in 2015, it was cancelled the following year because unspecified members of the campus community expressed concern over whether or not the show was adequately contributing to an educational dialogue. The show’s cancellation prompted Michele Roberge, the executive director of the performing arts center, to resign.

Key Players

Michele Roberge served as the executive director of the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts for 14 years. She resigned upon learning that the performance would be shut down, telling the OC Weekly, “I just couldn’t come to work every day to work at a place that condones censorship.”

Further Details

The Carpenter Center for Performing Arts is technically a professional theater, although it is owned by the university. N*W*C is a play that has been touring the country for approximately 12 years. The small cast of writers visits college campuses in an attempt to foster conversation about real-life experiences with racial intolerance, integration, and immigration. The production has sparked protests of all kinds, including picketers, Neo-Nazi threats, and oppositional flyers, The New York Times reports.

In 2015, the NAACP penned a letter protesting CSULB’s decision to stage the show on its campus. In addition, many students objected to the play’s title. However, despite the criticism, University President Jane Close Conoley held firm and allowed the production to go forward.

But in 2016, the outcome was different. The performance was cancelled after numerous students and CSULB community members expressed concerns about it. Whereas the protests in 2015 had been primarily concerned with the title, those in 2016 objected to the content, OC Weekly reports.

Michele Roberge denounced the cancellation of the show as censorship. Upon resigning, she said, “by censoring this show, we’re depriving students of the opportunity from hearing a different point of view about race relations and making up their own minds about what’s in the news every day, from Black Lives Matter to police brutality. And as a professional presenting theater on a university campus, I think our job is to bring topics like this to the campus to be seen and discussed. But the university has curtailed my ability to do that, and I have enough integrity that I couldn’t accept [the decision],” the OC Weekly reports.


Show cancellation

The show was cancelled, though the performers were compensated, OC Weekly reports.

Roberge resigns

Michele Roberge resigned from the position she had held for 14 years, because she was uncomfortable with what she considered censorship.

N*W*C tour continues

Although unable to perform at CSULB, a cast member of N*W*C said that the production would continue the tour as planned.

External References

Long Beach St. Pulls Plug on N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK Show. Cancellation, or Censorship?, OC Weekly

What’s in a Slur? A New Play Searches for Answers, The New York Times

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

November 16, 2017

Middlebury College – March 2017

Middlebury, Vermont

Charles Murray was shouted down by student protesters during his appearance at Middlebury College on March 2, 2017. Administrators then took Murray to a video studio in the same building where he had attempted to speak and livestreamed his remarks. After Murray finished the livestream, he went to a car accompanied by Allison Stanger, a Middlebury professor; the two were attacked by a group of protesters, who began pounding and climbing on the car. Stanger went to the hospital and was diagnosed with a concussion after the incident.

Key Players

Charles Murray is an author and political scientist best-known for his 1994 book, “The Bell Curve,” which he co-authored with the late Richard Herrnstein, a psychologist and specialist in animal behavior. The book has been criticized ever since its publication for what many have perceived as racist overtones and empirical shortcomings. One of the book’s arguments concerns the idea that race plays a role in shaping an individual’s IQ, and that IQ is at least somewhat heritable. Since the book’s publication, its findings have been debated, critiqued, and debunked. Critics have argued that its conclusions are based on oversimplifications of science, and that “genes” for IQ are barely existent, if they exist at all. Questions have also been raised whether it is appropriate to hold Murray responsible for observations that were really developed by his co-author. Murray was invited to speak at Middlebury by the American Enterprise Institute Club, a politically conservative student group.

Allison Stanger is a professor of politics and economics at Middlebury College. She said that she had planned on asking difficult questions of Murray after his speech in the auditorium, but never got a chance to do so because of interruptions by protesters. She did engage in a back-and-forth with Murray after he delivered his remarks via livestream.

Laurie L. Patton is the president of Middlebury College. During her introduction of Murray prior to his speech, she condemned him, stating specifically that she would “regret it terribly” if her presence in the hall seemed like an endorsement of Murray’s beliefs. The day after the incident, Patton issued an apology to everyone who attended the event, and to Murray as well, saying that Middlebury had “failed to live up to [its] core values.” She wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal three months later, titled “The Right Way to Protect Free Speech on Campus.” She described the interruptions of Murray’s speech as “disheartening,” writing, “As a community of learners, we must extend the same privileges and rights of speech to others as we would ask others to extend to us.” The op-ed provided a prescriptive list of potential methods to ensure rights for both free speech and protest, including embracing freedom of inquiry as an educational value for all, moving beyond a false dichotomy between free speech and inclusiveness, and reminding students that educational institutions have a primary obligation to foster open and civil discourse.

Further details

Stanger wrote later in a Facebook post that it had been difficult to maintain the conversation with Murray when students were banging on the windows outside and pulling fire alarms in an attempt to stop the livestream.

Stanger wrote two separate op-eds, both in The New York Times. In the first, published on March 17, 2017, titled “Understanding the Angry Mob at Middlebury That Gave Me a Concussion,” she described the analyses of the situation as “incomplete.” She detailed her experience being attacked by protesters after the speech, writing, “I feared for my life.” She also stressed the need for reason, not emotions, to prevail, and she said she believed the student protesters were well-intentioned in their desire to support oppressed communities. In the second op-ed, titled “Middlebury, My Divided Campus,” published on April 3, 2017, Stanger compared Murray’s speaking engagement with a public Skype interview she had conducted with Edward Snowden, who leaked a trove of secret documents from the National Security Agency in 2013 and 2014. Her interview with Snowden occurred without incident, she said, and she noted that Middlebury did not issue a disclaimer before that event, whereas the president of Middlebury had disassociated herself from Murray’s views while introducing him. She continued that she believes those in the political middle at Middlebury are reluctant to support free inquiry because they are afraid of being labelled as racist.

No students were suspended or expelled for their roles in the Murray protest. The Times reported that 67 students were eventually disciplined to some degree, ranging from probation to official rebukes that would go on their permanent records. Patton’s op-ed in The Wall Street Journal stated that a total of 74 students were sanctioned. The details of the sanctions were purposely left vague, due to privacy concerns. Although more than 100 students were involved in the initial protests during Murray’s speech, many could not be identified because photos of the event covered only part of the auditorium.

The Times also reported that the protesters who had rocked the car back and forth and pulled Stanger’s hair may not have been affiliated with the college, but had come from off campus. The Middlebury Police Department said it did not plan on bringing criminal charges against any of the protesters who could be identified. The chief of police said it was not possible to identify some of the individuals who attacked the car and assaulted Stanger because they were wearing masks.

Immediately after the incident, Murray tweeted that the administration at Middlebury had been “exemplary” and that the students “were seriously scary.” He described the protesters as an “out-of-control mob.”

On May 3, 2017, professors from across the country signed an open letter addressed to Laurie Patton. It criticized the punitive measures taken against the students involved in the protest, arguing that the administration “sorely mishandled” the situation and that “students have a right to reasonable protest; and protest by its very nature is a challenge to an authority that refuses to listen.” The letter concluded by saying that Middlebury should be protecting the rights of the students to free speech, not just Murray’s rights. “To punish students and to defend Murray is to degrade the meaning of academic freedom and free speech,” it said.

Additionally, more than 40 Middlebury faculty members published a statement of principles in The Middlebury Campus on May 10. It said that “speech that justifies, naturalizes, and reinforces the positions of the privileged vis-à-vis the marginalized should be rigorously scrutinized and critiqued, and speech that challenges such opinions and prejudices should be encouraged.” The statement also endorsed the necessity of civil disobedience in defining the values and relationships that construct a community.

Following the incident at Middlebury, Murray visited Columbia University on March 23, where almost 150 faculty members signed an open letter supporting his right to speak. However, their letter also condemned him as producing work that “justifies the ongoing disenfranchisement of African Americans and other people of color, and, more recently, poor and working class white people.” They added that they supported the rights of campus student groups to listen to whatever speaker they invite to campus. Murray was able to speak despite protesters holding signs with statements like “No free speech for racists” outside the event. About 60 faculty members and students attended.

Murray appeared at Harvard University, his alma mater, on September 6, under heavy security. Flyers were handed out ahead of the event which described Murray as a white nationalist and advertised a competing event titled, “White Nationalism Unchecked: Why Inviting Charles Murray Was a Mistake.” The Harvard Crimson reported that Murray did not discuss his work in “The Bell Curve,” but instead talked about President Trump’s election and his book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010.” The Crimson also reported that midway through Murray’s talk, approximately 10 students stood up and displayed protest signs before walking quietly out of the auditorium. Murray commented that the events at Harvard were “better than Middlebury.”

In September, Addis Fouche-Channer, an African-American student who had graduated from Middlebury in May 2017, denied taking part in the protest after she was accused of involvement by a campus public safety officer. The officer said that that she had been climbing on the car in which Murray and Stanger were sitting, and that he had pulled her off and identified her. Fouche-Channer went through the college’s judicial process prior to graduation and was cleared of wrongdoing, reports The Middlebury Campus. Later, she filed a formal complaint with the university, claiming she had been a victim of racial profiling. After an investigation by Middlebury’s Title IX office, a college official denied this allegation and said the college now believed Fouche-Channer was at the protest after all, contradicting its earlier decision. Fouche-Channer continued to deny that she was in attendance, reports the Campus. After news of the allegations broke, a Middlebury faculty group called “Middlebury Faculty for an Inclusive Community” published an op-ed in the Campus in support of her.


Reaction from national publications

In the wake of the incident, a myriad of articles were published, both defending Murray’s right to free speech and defending the rights of students to protest his speech.

An article by Peter Beinart in The Atlantic compared the incident to an earlier conflict involving Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California, Berkeley. Beinart noted that Murray had been invited by a small group of students on campus, an ideological minority, but that the minority viewpoint deserved protection. Denying Murray the right to speak would set a precedent under which other conservative speakers, such as Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, would not be allowed to talk, he argued. Beinart concluded that students willing to shut down Murray could also turn against figures on the political left, and that fact should cause liberals to take notice and be concerned about denying Murray’s right to speak.

A column by Richard Cohen in The Washington Post argued that the protesters used a “culturally appropriated” form of fascism by refusing to allow Murray’s speech to proceed. He pointed out that Benito Mussolini’s rise to power in Italy took the form of violent protests that silenced opponents and interfered with the opposition’s meetings.

Students Sanctioned

A total of 74 students were disciplined for their roles in the protest. None were expelled. The protesters who attacked the car were apparently never definitively identified.

Murray Made Appearances at Other Universities

Murray appeared at Columbia and Harvard after the Middlebury incident. His appearance at Columbia was undisturbed except for protesters outside. Columbia faculty wrote an open letter clarifying that they did not endorse Murray’s views, but did support his right to speak. At Harvard, about 10 students stood up, displayed signs, and walked out.

External References:

Charles Murray, American Enterprise Institute

The Real Problem with Charles Murray and ‘The Bell Curve,’ Scientific American

Charles Murray speaks at Columbia, with support of nearly 150 faculty members, USA Today College

Allison Stanger’s Facebook Post

Understanding the Angry Mob at Middlebury That Gave Me a Concussion The New York Times

Middlebury, My Divided Campus, The New York Times

Dozens of Middlebury Students Are Disciplined for Charles Murray Protest, The New York Times

Middlebury College punishes students who disrupted Charles Murray talk, The Boston Globe

A Painful Lesson, The New Criterion

Open Letter to President Patton, The Middlebury Campus

An Initial Statement of Our Principles, The Middlebury Campus

More Sanctions (and Debate) at Middlebury, Inside Higher Ed

A Violent Attack on Free Speech at Middlebury, The Atlantic

Protesters at Middlebury College Demonstrate ‘Cultural Appropriation’ – of Fascism, The Washington Post

Protesters Disrupt Speech by ‘Bell Curve’ Author at Vermont College, The New York Times

Charles Murray Event Draws Protest, The Harvard Crimson

Accused Student Alleges Racial Profiling, The Middlebury Campus

Faculty Support Wrongfully Accused Student, The Middlebury Campus

The Right Way to Protect Free Speech on Campus, The Wall Street Journal

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

November 14, 2017

University of Colorado – Boulder – June 2017

Boulder, CO

Phillip P. DiStefano, chancellor of the University of Colorado-Boulder (UCB), was suspended for 10 days without pay after failing to report to authorities an allegation that an assistant football coach had committed domestic violence. Rick George, the director of athletics, and Mike MacIntyre, the head football coach, were both fined $100,000 for failing to report the allegations.

Key Players

Phillip P. DiStefano has served as chancellor at UCB since April 1, 2009. When DiStefano first learned from MacIntyre of the allegations against assistant coach Joe Tumpkin, he reportedly did not believe there was sufficient evidence to warrant informing the relevant authorities, the Daily Camera reports. He later defended his actions, claiming that based on his reading of the university’s policy, he was not required to disclose the allegations. He said he had read the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance’s “Processes and Procedures” document, and determined that it was best to “err on the side of caution,” reports The Denver Post. However, on February 16, 2017, he said that employees should “err on the side of reporting” in the future. DiStefano was suspended for 10 days for his role in the incident.

Joe Tumpkin previously served as the safeties coach for UCB’s football team. On December 9, 2016, his ex-girlfriend called the head football coach, Mike MacIntyre, and alleged that Tumpkin had physically abused her. Tumpkin was promoted to defensive coordinator on December 16, but four days later, a judge granted his ex-girlfriend a temporary restraining order against him, the Camera reports. Tumpkin then coached in a December 29 bowl game. On January 6, 2017, George and MacIntyre learned of the restraining order and suspended Tumpkin. A day later, the local police department opened a criminal investigation into the allegations, reports the Post. Tumpkin was suspended indefinitely and then resigned at the request of the university on January 27, 2017.

Mike MacIntyre is the head football coach at UCB. He says he received a phone call from the victim on December 9, and informed George immediately afterwards. George reached out to DiStefano, and they deemed that official action was not necessary. MacIntyre made the decision to promote Tumpkin to defensive coordinator for the bowl game in December, a decision that George and DiStefano both approved. When asked why he still decided to promote Tumpkin, MacIntyre said that he was not aware of any official legal action or complaint, and that the decision was approved by his superior. MacIntyre and George were both fined $100,000 for their failure to report the allegations to law enforcement.

Rick George is the director of athletics at UCB. He approved of the decision to promote Tumpkin for the bowl game and was fined $100,000. Both he and MacIntyre paid the fine to charities that work against domestic violence.

Bruce Benson is the president of UCB. He, along with the Board of Regents, made the decision to suspend DiStefano and fine MacIntyre and George.

Pamela Fine is Joe Tumpkin’s ex-girlfriend. She alleged that Tumpkin began abusing her in early 2015, and that the last instance of abuse took place in November 2016, after which she left Tumpkin permanently. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, reports Deadspin. In September 2017, Fine filed a lawsuit against UC Boulder for failing to report the abuse allegations.

Further details

Former U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, who conducted an investigation on behalf of law firm WilmerHale, identified three major breakdowns in DiStefano’s decision-making: failure to report domestic violence allegations, failure to report to law enforcement officials, and mishandling of Tumpkin’s role as a coach, reports the Post. However, Salazar said that there was no “bad intent” or cover-up, but instead a series of mistakes made by the individuals involved.

President Benson said in a statement that the university “did not handle this matter as well as [it] should have.” He acknowledged that some would find his punishments too harsh and others would find them too lenient.

“I kick myself every day,” DiStefano said about his decision not to report the incident, reports the Camera. He added that “all we had is an allegation from a lady that we don’t know very well who had one or two phone calls with [MacIntyre] — that was it — I wish we knew then all the information.”

The Board of Regents issued a statement directing Benson to outline necessary changes to university policy in order to avoid similar incidents from occurring in the future.


DiStefano suspended, George and MacIntyre Fined

Chancellor DiStefano was suspended for 10 days without pay, and Rick George and Mike MacIntyre were each fined $100,000 for their role in the incident.

Tumpkin resigned and is facing felony charges

Joe Tumpkin faces five felony counts of second-degree assault and three misdemeanor counts of third-degree assault. His ex-girlfriend accused him of biting and choking her on occasion, and threatening to kill other men in whom she had expressed interest. On June 21, 2017, the Camera reported that proceedings in Tumpkin’s case could be delayed for months due to arguments between his defense attorneys and the prosecution over how much access the defense team should have to Fine’s cell phone records.

Fine files lawsuit against UC Boulder

Deadspin reported on September 6 that Fine is suing UC Boulder for failing to report her abuse allegations to the police. The suit is ongoing.

External References

CU chancellor Phil DiStefano says he wasn’t required to report domestic violence allegations against Joe Tumpkin, The Denver Post

Joe Tumpkin, former CU football assistant coach, investigation timeline, The Denver Post

Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre punished for handling of domestic violence allegation, SB Nation

Colorado suspends chancellor, reprimands coach Mike MacIntyre, AD Rick George, ABC News

Phil DiStefano given 10-day suspension in CU’s Joe Tumpkin investigation, Daily Camera

Failure to Report, Inside Higher Ed

Colorado Football: Joe Tompkin’s alleged victim tells her story, Sports Illustrated

Former Colorado assistant Joe Tupmkin charged with felony assault, The Denver Post

Joe Tumpkin criminal case stalls as attorneys fight over access to ex-girlfriend’s cell phone, Daily Camera

Former Colorado assistant Joe Tumpkin’s ex-girlfriend sues over school’s failure to report abuse allegations, Deadspin

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

November 14, 2017

University of New Mexico – October 2016

Albuquerque, NM

On October 17, 2016, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the University of New Mexico (UNM) reached an agreement to refine UNM’s policies concerning sexual harassment and misconduct on campus. The agreement was the result of a process started by a letter DOJ sent to UNM on April 22, 2016, which criticized the university’s handling of sexual harassment cases.

Key Figures

Robert G. Frank is the former president of UNM. His contract expired on May 31, 2017. He had announced prior to DOJ’s letter that he would not be seeking another term as president. When Frank received the letter, he initially defended UNM, according to a university statement. He pointed out that UNM was not alone in facing the issue of sexual assault on campus, and that DOJ provided an “incomplete and inaccurate” representation of the situation at the university. However, Frank also stated that despite what he perceived to be inaccuracies, the UNM took the letter “in a spirit of cooperation,” and that the university “[pledged] to continue our campus wide improvements to combat this complex issue.”

Chaouki Abdullah became the interim president of UNM on June 1, 2017, shifting into the role from his previous position as provost there. He said his priority in that role would be “calming the campus community and preparing it for its next president,” reported the Albuquerque Journal in an interview from December 2016.

Further Details

On December 5, 2014, DOJ began an investigation into UNM’s response to student allegations of sexual assault. It was the second time DOJ investigated a university’s policies regarding such allegations. The first began in May 2012, when DOJ performed a year-long inquiry into the University of Montana. That probe concluded with the announcement of an agreement between the University of Montana and DOJ to change the university’s policies.

Albuquerque Journal reports that the investigation into UNM began due to “multiple complaints” from students concerning how the university handled sexual assault cases. The investigation was conducted under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination by recipients of federal financial assistance.

During its probe, DOJ found that students, administrators, and faculty at UNM “lacked basic understanding” about reporting processes and protocols and that there were “significant gaps” in the response to allegations of sexual assault on campus. DOJ also critiqued a specific UNM policy stipulating that “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature does not constitute sexual harassment until it causes a hostile environment or unless it is quid pro quo,” reports The Washington Post.

Upon completing its investigation, DOJ prescribed a list of policy changes required for UNM to comply fully with Title IX. The list included training for students and faculty concerning UNM’s policy on sexual harassment, along with information and assistance on how to report violations. It also advised UNM to revise its policies “to provide a grievance procedure that ensures prompt and equitable resolution of sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations,” and to “take prompt and effective steps to eliminate a hostile environment…”

On October 17, 2016, DOJ and UNM announced they had reached an agreement to improve the university’s handling of sexual assault allegations. A change in policy as to what constitutes sexual assault is also underway, as is refining the university’s procedures for providing impartial investigations into any allegations of sexual assault and for conducting regular campus climate surveys, according to a report from UNM’s compliance office.


Agreement Reached Between the UNM and DOJ

The agreement is intended to change UNM’s procedures for investigating sexual assault claims, conducting regular campus climate surveys, and organizing training for faculty, staff, and students about the handling of sexual assault cases. The developments were to take place over the course of three years, at an estimated cost $1.5 million to put the infrastructure, staff, and resources in place.

External References

Justice Department Releases Investigative Findings on University of New Mexico’s Response to Sexual Assault Allegations, The United States Department of Justice

Justice Department Blasts U. of New Mexico for Failing to Address Sexual Assault, The Washington Post

Re: Title IX and Title IV Investigation of University of New Mexico, The United States Department of Justice

Frank will not seek second term as UNM’s president, UNM Newsroom

UNM Provost Chaouki Abdullah: ‘I want to do a good job for the university, Albuquerque Journal

DOJ, UNM reach agreement on policies regarding sexual harassment, UNM Newsroom

Sexual Harassment, Newseum Institute

FACT SHEET: Agreement Between The University of New Mexico and the U.S. Department of Justice, UNM Newsroom

DOJ’s probe of UNM is second in nation, Albuquerque Journal

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

October 11, 2017

Elon University – October 4, 2016

Elon, NC

Students petitioned Elon University’s administration to retract an invitation for Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Kathleen Parker to speak on campus in Elon’s McCrary Theater. Despite the effort by some students, the school administrators maintained the invitation and Parker spoke about politics, journalism and free speech on October 4, 2016.

Key Figures

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker was invited to speak at Elon as a part of the university’s Baird Pulitzer Prize Lecture Series.

Becca Nipper, a senior undergraduate student, spearheaded a petition to ban Parker from speaking on campus. Her petition was signed by over 300 students, alumni and others.

Dan Anderson, Elon’s vice president for university communications, released a statement supporting the role of controversial speakers on campus. “That is in keeping with the university’s mission of being an academic community that encourages freedom of thought and liberty of conscience,'” the statement read, according to the Elon News Network. “It is important to know that the university does not endorse or reject the ideas expressed by the speakers we engage,” the statement continued.

Further Details

Since 2001, the Baird Lecture Series for Pulitzer Prize Award Winners has hosted an annual lecturer from the varying categories for which the Pulitzer Prize Award is given. In 2016, Kathleen Parker was invited by the Elon University administration to deliver the Baird Pulitzer Prize lecture in October. Parker won the Pulitzer Prize Award in 2010 for Commentary. However, the invitation was met with some pushback from the Elon community when her visit was announced during the summer before her scheduled speech.

Elon student Becca Nipper circulated a petition to have Parker disinvited. In her petition, Nipper referenced Parker’s 2008 book titled, “Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care”. The petition, called “A Request for the Removal of Baird Pulitzer Prize Speaker Kathleen Parker,” received more than 300 signatures. It asserted that “Parker’s journalism is more than just her opinion, it’s a consistent attack on all of the things Elon has been working toward — ending sexual assault, increasing diversity and creating a safe and encouraging environment for all students regardless of gender, race, ethnic background or sexual orientation.”

As reported by National Review, Kathleen Parker’s columns have been published in 450 newspapers worldwide, and she frequently makes guest appearances on many major news networks.

Responding to the petition, Elon’s vice president for university communications, Dan Anderson, released a statement referring to Parker as an “accomplished individual” and saying “ While some may disagree with the views of speakers, we believe there is great value in holding our personal beliefs up to the tests of those who hold different perspectives” among other things. Ultimately, the university did not rescind its invitation to Parker. “We appreciate the initiative of the students who have raised questions and opened a constructive discussion about this fall’s Baird Lecture, and we look forward to the conversation about these topics before and after Ms. Parker’s appearance,” the university statement said, according to the Elon News Network. “That is the mark of a vibrant academic institution, and the Elon community deserves nothing less.”

Parker delivered her lecture as planned. The Times-News reported that all 575 available seats had been sold out for the event. Tickets were $13 or free with an Elon ID. During the lecture, she spoke about her career, including her experience in the media industry. She also addressed the book that was the center of the petition to bar her appearance, saying, “I probably wouldn’t write that book today, and if I did, I probably would not be so snarky,” reports the Elon News Network. She also advocated for Free Speech, although the majority of the talk focused on the upcoming 2016 presidential election and the current political climate.


Free Speech supported by the administration

By refusing to abide by the demands in Nipper’s petition, the university administration upheld Parker’s invitation and advocated for Free Speech on Elon’s campus.

Parker delivered speech

Kathleen Parker delivered her speech as planned. She advocated for Free Speech and spoke about her history in journalism and the 2016 presidential election.

External References:

Kathleen Parker, after summer controversy and student petition, to speak Oct. 4, Elon News Network

Hundreds of Students Protest Female Speaker’s Invite Over Concerns It’s Too ‘Dangerous’, National Review

Pulitzer winner Kathleen Parker talks politics, free speech in Baird Lecture appearance, Elon News Network

Tommy Hamzik’s Tweet

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

October 11, 2017

Sonoma State University – June 2017

Rohnert Park, CA

Sonoma State University President Judy Sakaki apologized for a poem that graduating senior Dee Dee Simpson read during the 2017 commencement ceremony. In the poem, Simpson spoke of police violence against African-Americans and was critical of President Trump. The poem also contained expletives. After the incident, alumni, faculty, and students signed a letter to Sakaki objecting to her apology.

Key Players

Judy Sakaki is the president of Sonoma State University (SSU). She is the first Japanese-American woman to head a four-year college or university in the United States. Prior to taking over as president of SSU in August 2016, she worked as an administrator in the University of California system. She had just finished her first full academic year as president.

Dee Dee Simpson, a member of SSU’s class of 2017, read the controversial poem during the commencement ceremony. The poem, which Simpson wrote, contained expletives, mentions of police violence against African-Americans, and criticisms of Donald Trump. One portion of the poem included the line, “My people live in places you wouldn’t drive through in an armored truck.”

Eric McGuckin is an anthropology professor at SSU. He wrote the letter to Sakaki criticizing her decision to apologize for Simpson’s reading of the poem. In the letter, which was also posted on Facebook, McGuckin wrote, “Many of us felt Ms. Simpson’s recitation was perhaps the most impactful address of the ceremony, and we hope that in the future, rather than calling for apologies, such controversies are seen as an opportunity for the administration to support our students, and encourage dialogue and learning.”

Further Details

As part of the apology, Sakaki wrote that, “while this individual student is among our accomplished poets, having her offer this particular piece at the Arts and Humanities commencement was a mistake.” Simpson has not commented publicly on her reading of the poem.

Several parents were reportedly shaking their heads when the expletive “f***” was said during Simpson’s poem, according to a report from The Blaze. In an email to an angry parent after the incident, Sakaki reportedly described the poem as a “mistake” that “should not have happened.” Sakaki has not commented publicly about the letter she received from alumni, faculty and students criticizing her decision to apologize for the poem. More than 100 people signed the letter, including at least 23 faculty members, reports The Press Democrat.

In an email to The Press Democrat, Gary Delsohn, a spokesman for the university, wrote that President Sakaki is a defender of free speech, but that the use of profanity was “inappropriate” for the commencement ceremony due to the presence of families. The Press Democrat also reported that angry parents sent emails to Sakaki asking for an explanation of why the poem was allowed to be read.

However, a SSU English professor said that the poem was met with applause. “I’m not surprised it evoked strong reactions,” she told The Press Democrat. “That’s a sign of good work.”


Professor writes letter criticizing the president for apologizing

Eric McGuckin, a professor at SSU, wrote a letter that was signed by at least 23 faculty members and numerous other alumni and students criticizing Sakaki’s decision to apologize for the reading of the poem. A university spokesman pointed specifically to the profanity as a cause for the apology.

External References:

Faculty criticize Sonoma State President Judy Sakaki over apology for provocative graduation speech, The Press Democrat

Faculty criticize Sonoma State President Judy Sakaki over apology for provocative graduation poem, The Press Democrat

Eric McGuckin’s Letter

Black student’s anti-Trump poem recited at college graduation is ripped as ‘hate speech,’ The Blaze

Anger Over Poem and Apology at Sonoma State, Inside Higher Ed

Critics blast SSU graduation poem as ‘Hate speech,’ The Press Democrat

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

October 2, 2017

University of Buffalo – May 1, 2017

Buffalo, NY

Richard Spencer, a leader in the white nationalist movement, was invited by a conservative student group called Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) to speak on the University of Buffalo’s (UB) campus. His speech, titled, “Exposing Radical Islam: The Dangers of Jihad in Today’s World,” was interrupted by protesters. Spencer told the disruptive audience that their actions were “quintessentially fascist.” While the majority of attendees refused to let Spencer be heard, drowning out his microphoned voice, one Muslim UB graduate student stood and urged the audience to allow him to speak. In addition, the crowd became quieter when Spencer agreed to debate with the Imam of the Jami Mosque in Buffalo.

Key Players

Richard Spencer is president and director of the National Policy Institute, a think tank dedicated to “the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent,” according to the organization’s website. In November 2016, Spender addressed a National Policy Institute convention and shouted “Hail Trump!” in a manner that provoked members of his audience to give a Nazi-like salute. In January 2017, Spencer was punched in the face by a masked assailant during President Trump’s inauguration. Spencer’s membership was revoked by a gym in Alexandria. VA, due to his political beliefs.

Alexandra Prince is a UB graduate student who circulated a petition labeling Spencer a “notorious Islamophobe and hate monger”. The goal of her petition was to stop student funds from financing Spencer’s visit by claiming that he posed a tangible threat to UB students.

Akram Shibly, a graduate student at UB and a Muslim, urged protesters to let Spencer speak, “so we can speak back,” The Buffalo News reported.

Imam Pasha Syed, of the Jami Mosque in Buffalo, was permitted by police to enter the the venue to debate Spencer toward the end of his lecture. The debate prolonged the event by approximately an hour.

Lynn Sementilli is president of the UB chapter of YAF. She introduced Spencer prior to his remarks.

Further Details

The YAF chapter at the University of Buffalo has had its charter since February 2016. One of its primary goals is to bring more conservative speakers to UB to deliver lectures. In April 2017, the group announced it had invited Spencer to speak the next month. As a member of the YAF speakers bureau, he visits many college campuses.

Many of Spencer’s books have been subject to criticism by Islamic groups, as he often attributes acts of terrorism conducted by Muslims to their religious beliefs. When it was determined that Spencer would speak at UB, his planned visit to campus sparked controversy. A petition was circulated that attempted to block student funds from being used to help fund it. The petition classified Spencer as a threat, asserting that his work may have incentivized terrorist Anders Behring Breivik to kill 77 people in Norway in 2011.

The petition was unsuccessful, and Richard Spencer arrived at UB as planned. His lecture was filled to capacity, reports The Buffalo News. Protesters reportedly arrived up to two hours early to organize their demonstration. Spencer addressed an audience of 200, the majority of whom made it clear throughout the event that they did not agree with his views. Additionally, approximately 100 individuals were not permitted to enter the space due to fire safety codes.

Once the lecture began, Spencer was drowned out by audience members. Although Spencer used a microphone, he was not able to be heard and used his phone a few times to record the crowd’s disruptions.


Spencer delivers speech despite protests

Although he was shouted down and vigorously protested, Spencer managed to deliver a speech and partake in a debate with a local Imam. Following the event, he left campus safely and university police reported no arrests or violent incidents.

YAF hopes to bring more speakers to campus

Sementilli made clear that she was saddened by the disruptive protests. However, she said, “We will continue to try and bring speakers to campus and coordinate them well so there will be a productive dialogue,” The Buffalo News reports.

External References:

No violence, but UB speaker greeted with tension, heckling, The Buffalo News

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

September 24, 2017

Marquette University – February 8, 2017

Milwaukee, WI

An event featuring conservative author Ben Shapiro drew criticism from many students, as his appearance coincided with Black History Month. Some faculty members allegedly attempted to restrict access to the event by reserving seats that they did not intend to fill, thereby preventing others from attending the speech.

Key Figures

Ben Shapiro is a conservative commentator who has served as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire and editor-at-large of Breitbart News. In 2016, Shapiro spoke to students at numerous universities on a tour that was financially supported by the conservative student organization Young America’s Foundation (YAF). Shapiro’s tour had the intention of “invading campus ‘safe spaces,’” according to the Daily Wire’s press release.

Chrissy Nelson is the program assistant at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies at Marquette University. Nelson reportedly encouraged members of Marquette’s faculty to reserve seats at Shapiro’s event in order to take seats away from potential attendees.

Susannah Bartlow is a former Marquette University professor and director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. Bartlow was fired in 2015 for creating a mural honoring Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur.

Further Details

Marquette University’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom invited conservative author Ben Shapiro to speak on February 8, 2017. In response, students representing the Marquette Empowerment Executive Board wrote a letter to University President Michael Lovell objecting to Shapiro’s appearance on the grounds that “he invalidates the experiences of their microaggressions” and that his remarks would take place during Black History Month, reports The College Fix. The letter also called on Lovell to “stand up for those who are marginalized” and included a list of questions that related to Shapiro’s stance on racial issues. Specifically, it alleged that “Ben Shapiro believes racism is no longer an issue for People of Color. How will you explain to Students of Color that the discrimination and microaggressions they experience daily is not an illusion?” and “Ben Shapiro questions the truth that every person is deserving of dignity and respect. How will you maintain the values of Marquette University while hateful rhetoric against certain students is being perpetuated at University-sanctioned events?” The letter was obtained by members of the student group Young Americans for Freedom, according to The Washington Times.

Members of Young Americans for Freedom also obtained screenshots of a Facebook post in which a member of the Marquette faculty, Chrissy Nelson, suggested that non-students reserve seats at Shapiro’s event through an Eventbrite page, thereby taking up space from potentially interested students, reports National Review. “I just got off the phone with one of the directors of diversity on campus,” Nelson, who is a program assistant at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies at Marquette, wrote. “The suggestion I received and will be promoting is to go to the mission week events that day, reserve a seat through Eventbrite as a student (to take a seat away from someone who actually would go) and not protest the day of.” In a different social media communication, Nelson encouraged Susannah Bartlow, a former Marquette professor and director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center to “Register as a student.” She continued, “Take a seat away from a student that would be interested in going.”

Young Americans for Freedom notified Marquette administrators of the screenshots they had obtained. In a statement, Brian Dorrington, Marquette’s senior director of university communication, wrote, “Our Student Affairs team has been working closely with the Young Americans for Freedom to assist them with their event. We have addressed this issue internally and will work to make sure that interested attendees have an opportunity to see Ben Shapiro on February 8.”


Speaker spoke

Shapiro delivered his address at Marquette University as scheduled on February 8, 2017

External References:

Marquette students upset Ben Shapiro invited to campus during Black History Month, The Washington Times

If Tim Kaine Thinks His Son’s Trump Protest Was ‘Peaceful,’ What Would Be Violent?, The Federalist

Marquette’s Faculty Tries to Sabotage Ben Shapiro Event, National Review

Students furious conservative to speak on campus during Black History Month, The College Fix

Prepared by Ian Prasad Philbrick ‘17

September 24, 2017

University of California, San Diego – June 2017

San Diego, CA

Princeton University Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor cancelled her commencement address at the University of San Diego after receiving death threats and violent email reactions to a commencement address she had previously delivered at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. At Hampshire, Taylor called President Trump a “racist, sexist megalomaniac.”

Key Figures:

Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is an assistant professor of African Studies at Princeton University. She studies social justice and racial issues and wrote a book titled, “From #blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation.” On May 20, 2017, during a commencement speech at Hampshire College, she called President Trump a “racist, sexist megalomaniac.” Afterwards, the speech was circulated by conservative media outlets, including Fox News. Taylor reported receiving death threats and hateful messages. She said she was cancelling upcoming public appearances out of a fear for her own life.

Further details:

Conservative media outlets, including Fox News and The Blaze, publicized Taylor’s commencement address at Hampshire College. Soon afterwards, she began receiving death threats, and had to cancel any upcoming public appearances. She posted about her experience on Facebook, saying in part,

“Since last Friday, I have received more than fifty hate-filled and threatening emails. Some of these emails have contained specific threats of violence, including murder. Earlier this month, I delivered the commencement address at Hampshire College’s graduation ceremony. My speech at Hampshire was applauded but Fox News did not like it. Last week, the network ran a story on my speech, describing it as an ‘anti-POTUS tirade.’ Fox ran an online story about my speech and created a separate video of excerpts of my speech, which included my warning to graduates about the world they were graduating into. I argued that Donald Trump, the most powerful politician in the world, is “a racist and sexist megalomaniac,” who poses a threat to their future. Shortly after the Fox story and video were published, my work email was inundated with vile and violent statements. I have been repeatedly called ‘nigger,’ ‘bitch,’ ‘cunt,’ ‘dyke,’ ‘she-male,’ and ‘coon’ — a clear reminder that racial violence is closely aligned with gender and sexual violence. I have been threatened with lynching and having the bullet from a .44 Magnum put in my head. I am not a newsworthy person. Fox did not run this story because it was ‘news,’ but to incite and unleash the mob-like mentality of its fringe audience, anticipating that they would respond with a deluge of hate-filled emails — or worse. The threat of violence, whether it is implied or acted on, is intended to intimidate and to silence.”

She also accused Fox News of deliberately trying to incite and “unleash the mob-like mentality of its fringe audience.”


Taylor receives death threats, cancels public appearances.

Taylor cancelled her upcoming commencement address at the University of California, San Diego.

External References:

Concession to Violent Intimidation, Inside Higher Ed

Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor Cancels Public Appearances Amid Fox News-Fueled Death Threats, The Root

Princeton professor: I received death threats after anti-Trump commencement address, CBS News

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor Facebook Statement

Where is the outrage for Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor? New Republic

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

September 11, 2017

University of Iowa – June 2017

Iowa City, IA

University of Iowa Professor Sara Bond faced online criticism after she wrote a column in the online arts publication Hyperallergic in which she refuted the idea that the white coloring of the marble statues of antiquity represented the classical ideal of skin color. Bond instead argued that the statues’ white coloring was the result of their original paint fading over time. She also said that this misperception was used to justify contemporary racism. Conservative and right-leaning websites criticized her for her comments, leading to online harassment and calls for her termination.

Key Players

Julia Bond is an assistant professor of classics at the University of Iowa. Bond wrote a piece for a website called Hyperallergic that pushed back against the idea that white must have been the ideal skin color in the classical era, since all surviving marble statues from the era are colored white. Instead, Bond asserted that the statues had originally been painted with a variety of different skin colors, but that such paint had faded over time. She argued that this misperception had contributed to contemporary white supremacy, because it led those who viewed the statues to believe that white skin was regarded as the ideal skin color at the time of the statues’ creation. Bond was criticized by right-leaning media outlets and was subsequently subjected to online harassment, some of which was anti-Semitic (Bond is of Jewish heritage), according to Inside Higher Ed. Commenters also called for her termination from the university.

John F. Finamore, chair of the Classics Department at the University of Iowa, said that he was aware of the backlash Bond’s piece had generated online, and that he was working with the dean’s office and the university’s threat assessment team to ensure Bond’s safety. He also said that all members of the department had been supportive of Bond.

Further Details

In her article, Bond advocated for better museum signage, 3-D reconstructions of statues, and information posted next to statues in order to give the viewer a better understanding what the sculpture would have looked like just after being created. Bond said that a lack of understanding of the fact that statues had been painted in various skin tones contributed to white supremacist ideas. This led to right-wing media organizations skewering her for being too sensitive. Bond believes that her critics and harassers saw her as an example of the “hyperliberalization of the academy,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Bond’s experience is similar to those of other academics who have published their opinions, only to be met with vociferous criticism and threats of violence. Princeton University Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor was threatened after criticizing Donald Trump during a commencement speech at Hampshire College. Texas A&M Professor Tommy Curry was threatened due to comments he made about violence against white people in the popular movie “Django Unchained.” These two examples, along with that of Bond, have been cited in an ongoing discussion about the online intimidation of scholars.

Elsewhere in the academic world, scholars have offered Bond praise, saying that they thought her work was valuable. Miami University Professor Denise McCoskey said that she didn’t understand why people wanted to diminish their own understandings of the ancient world by refusing to acknowledge that classical ideals might not reflect the ideals of modern society.


Bond harassed, but unharmed

Bond received hateful messages online due to her assertions about classical sculpture. Some comments targeted her for being a person of Jewish descent. Others said that she should be fired. Some advocated for violence against her, prompting the University of Iowa threat response team to assess the situation.

Conversations on the intimidation of scholars

After seeing the response to Bond’s piece, other academics and academic institutions have begun to discuss how academic opinions are perceived and the kinds of reactions they engender online.

External References:

Threats for What She Didn’t Say, Inside Higher Ed

Why We Need to Start Seeing the Classical World in Color, Hyperallergic

Professor: White-Marble Sculpture Contributes to ‘White Supremacy’, National Review

Prepared by Chris Castano ‘16

September 11, 2017