Friday, October 17, 2008

St. Kate's bans political speech 

From a Minnesota Association of Scholars press release (I am a member of its executive board):
The College of St. Catherine administration has barred CNN commentator Bay Buchanan from speaking on the St. Kate�s campus, according to Ken Doyle, president of the Minnesota Association of Scholars.

The St. Kate�s College Republicans, a student organization, was planning a tea and discussion with Ms. Buchanan, in conjunction with the speaker�s scheduled same-day lecture at the University of Minnesota. �The students were planning a really classy event,� said St. Kate�s physics professor Terry Flower, advisor to the group. �They�re all about intellectual diversity and the marketplace of ideas.�

�St. Kate�s administrators tell us that, because this is the election season, they�re banning all speakers with clear-cut party affiliation,� Doyle says. �My Jesuit philosophy teachers would call this a non sequitur; my sainted Irish grandmother would call it just plain goofy.�

�I smell a rat,� says Doyle.

Ms. Buchanan was treasurer of Ronald Reagan�s presidential campaigns in 1980 and 1984 and chairman of her brother Patrick�s unsuccessful bids for the presidency. She was the youngest person ever to hold the position of Treasurer of the United States. George magazine once recognized her as one of the top 20 political women in the country. A steadfast right-to-life champion, she co-anchored �Equal Time� on CNBC and MSNBC and worked as a political analyst for �Good Morning America.� Her lecture was to have focused on �Feminism and the 2008 Election.�

We honor a private college�s right to patrol its borders,� says Doyle. �At the same time we worry that limitations on free expression and debate aren�t good either for St. Kate�s students or for society in general. We urge St. Kate�s president Andrea Lee to reverse this decision and promote intellectual diversity and political awareness on her campus.�

Whatever St. Kate�s decides, Ms. Buchanan will speak at the University of Minnesota in the Coffman Memorial Union Theater, 300 Washington Avenue SE, Minneapolis, at 7:00pm Wednesday October 22, with a reception immediately afterwards. The event is free for students from any college or university � including St. Kate�s � and for members of the Minnesota Association of Scholars, $10 for the general public.
From the St. Kate's website, its student handbook indicates that their students are supposed to enjoy freedom of expression:
Learning and scholarship are at once individual and collective. Students enjoy the collective assurance and protection of free inquiry and open exchange of facts, ideas and openness. Students are free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment on debatable issues. This free exchange in no way diminishes the responsibility of the student for learning the content of a course.
And a review of their speakers policy does not indicate any restrictions during campaign seasons:
Whereas the College of St. Catherine provides an atmosphere of intellectual openness in which students can refine their abilities to evaluate alternatives faced in a pluralistic society;

And whereas the college, as a liberal arts college, upholds the academic principle of responsible inquiry and the constitutional right of free speech;

And whereas the College of St. Catherine, a Roman Catholic college, recognizes and respects the official teaching of the Church;

And whereas the college recognizes legitimate plurality of opinion in some areas of Church teaching;

Be it resolved that the college sees it as consistent with its mission to provide a forum for the free and responsible exchange of ideas. Be if further resolved that this policy will be implemented by the dean of students under the authority of the president of the college.

*As adopted by the Board of Trustees, 1980
These are from the campus' own website and are an indication of the kind of school students attending St. Kate's would be promised. Recently FIRE has put out a policy statement on political activity on campus:
Students and student groups at public colleges and universities enjoy the full protection of the First Amendment and must be free to engage in political activity, expression, and association on campus. Students and student groups at private colleges and universities are entitled to that degree of freedom of expression and association promised them in institutional handbooks, policies, and promotional materials. It is important to note that the overwhelming majority of private colleges and universities provide extensive promises of free speech in their materials, and therefore should be held to standards comparable to those required by the First Amendment.
Apparently St. Kate's disagrees.

Labels: ,