ASU Failing Students by Limiting Exposure to Differing Viewpoints
If you believe one of the purposes of college is to create critical thinkers, as I do, then the recent decision by the faculty to protest a right-wing event because in their words the college in effect endorsed hate speech was not only wrong but short-sighted. I deplore the speakers present — Robert Kiyosaki, Dennis Prager, and Charlie Kirk — but if you fancy yourself an American and favor free speech why would you teach students to deny it?
More than 600 people attended the event back in February, even after more than 30 active Barrett faculty signed a petition protesting the event arguing the speakers were “purveyors of hate.” The faculty members said they didn’t have a problem with the event being held on campus, instead, they didn’t like that the event was endorsed by the college. Never mind the event was in fact put on as part of the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development at ASU’s Barrett School where they teach. Of course it was endorsed by the college — it was a program of the college.
For the record, local developer Tom Lewis has donated millions of dollars to ASU over the past 20 years and the center in question is named for him. Its mission is to:
Prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of life. To accomplish this objective, the Lewis Center provides innovative courses, workshops, and an engaging speaker series focused on self-awareness (behaviors, values, strengths), personal values and character development, leadership and entrepreneurship, decision-making and risk-taking, career planning, success, and happiness.
Following the event, the center’s executive director Ann Atkinson, an ASU grad who has worked in commercial real estate and development for almost two decades, said she was fired for bringing the conservative voices to campus. ASU argues she was let go because Tom Lewis pulled funding for the center and her job was funded by the donations. The fact is Lewis didn’t like the way the faculty reacted to the appearances of conservative voices and he pulled his funding as he has the right to do. And frankly, I don’t blame him.
When did it become okay to stifle free speech on college campuses? I know many comedians have stopped peforming at colleges because of what they call “cancel culture” and it’s certainly not my intention to endorse non-woke sentiments, but ASU is a public college that serves students of all political persuasions — whether or not you agree with everyone’s opinion is not the point.
I would argue that we learn from hearing all sides of an issue before formaulating an opinion and trying to stifle unpopular opinions is antithetical to education on principal. I am a purist on this issue because I believe in the U.S. Constitution. It’s the same reason I believe the ACLU is right to defend white supremecists even if their beliefs are horrific. Conservatives spout on and on about the “free market” regulating issues and while I think the idea is bunk when it comes to economics I think it’s spot on when it comes to free speech.
The way to handle speech you don’t like is to picket, protest, and offer counter programming. If that’s in fact what the Barrett faculty thought they were doing by protesting this event they were complaining about the wrong issue — they should have complained to ASU leadership for taking Mr. Lewis’ money in the first place. You can’t make a deal with the devil and expect him to not want to make things hot.
But even that would be a fool’s errand because a public university has the right, and need, to bring in funding from all reputable sources. ASU is home to many programs funded by conservatives (we live in Arizona after all). The School of Engineering, for example, is named for donor Ira Fulton, a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Think he’s a liberal? Ever wonder who the heck W.P. Carey of the W. P. Carey School of Business is? He’s a real estate developer who donated $50 million to have the school bear his name. Not a lot of liberals out there who can throw around that kind of cheese.
I’m tired of my fellow liberals playing directly into the hands of conservatives with stupid stunts like this. Now the Arizona State legislature is investigating the school’s disrespect of the Constitution. Don’t give them shit like this on a silver platter.
The best way to undermine conservative voices is to let them speak. They undermine themselves everytime they open their mouths.