An Open Letter to an Earnestly Wrong-Headed College President

Dear Azusa President Jon Wallace,

I read with interest that you have disinvited the distinguished scholar Charles Murray as a speaker tomorrow at your university, Azusa Pacific. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Cancelling speeches is a hallowed campus tradition, like pantie raids were in the 1950s.

But have you done it the wrong way by blaming the calendar?

Your point that the April 23rd speech would have been late in the school year is absolutely accurate. But most people tend to believe you knew all along that late April is closely followed by early May, when Azusans are traditionally released from the occasional but dreaded school pressure of having to read and listen to people they don’t already agree with. As Dr. Murray pointed out, the speech had been planned for months, with the April-May proximity fully understood by seasoned calendar readers, one of whom should surely be on your staff.

Try not to blame the calendar while smearing the disinvited in the same sentence (“Given the lateness of the semester and the record of Dr, Murray’s scholarship…” Most presidents would argue that the smear belongs in a sentence of its own, quite separate from calendar issues.

When informing the speaker that he has been canceled, remember to send the note to the speaker himself, not to his publisher, bookmaker, barber, mother-in-law—or, as you did—to his employer. Using Google is a good way to find the address of each cancelee.

Instead of complaining about the calendar, or the bad lighting or weakness of folding chairs in the auditorium, why not try any of these proven techniques to rid your campus of unwanted conservative or libertarian speakers:

  • Cite the danger of violence as a reason to cancel (Columbia treatment of anti-jihadist Walid Shoebat, for example) This is the pre-emptive heckler’s veto.
  • Let hecklers drown out and cancel the speech, then put out a pious pro-free-speech statement, but don’t punish the protesters and don’t invite the speaker back (Brown University’s treatment of Ray Kelly).
  • Charge a security fee too high for the sponsoring organization to pay (pioneered at Berkeley).

Or simply say that diversity is a religion on this campus, and since that is the one true faith, why should you allow a heretic to speak?

John Leo

John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

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