Elon University is a high-quality private college in Elon, North Carolina. It was founded as a Christian school but now is pretty much secular—one of those small and excellent liberal arts colleges that dot North Carolina—and whose state legislature is doing its best to destroy.
Kathleen Parker is a widely syndicated and conservative-leaning (but not batshit crazy conservative-leaning like Ann Coulter) columnist for the Washington Post. Her pieces (you can see a collection here) appear in over 400 newspapers, the widest syndication of any American columnist. In 2010, Parker won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, a high honor. As Wikipedia notes, she’s “a consulting faculty member at the Buckley School of Public Speaking, a popular guest on cable and network news shows and a regular panelist on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and MSNBC’s “Hardball” with Chris Matthews” as well as “an entertaining speaker on politics and culture.”
You’d think, then, that the students of Elon University would be glad to get a chance to hear Parker speak. But you would be thinking wrong. Why? Because Parker is a conservative, doesn’t fall in line with Snowflake Ideology, and that doesn’t go down well on liberal campuses. In fact, the Elon administration did invite Parker to speak at its Baird Pulitzer Prize lecture this October. But some students struck back, trying to get the invitation rescinded. That, of course, is censorship.
As the Elon Local News reports (you can also find pieces on many right-wing but not left-wing sites), a student named Rebecca Nipper started a petition, soon signed by 300 Elon students and alums, calling Parker’s writings “dangerous”. Here’s a bit of Nipper’s Facebook post published at Campus Reform; I can’t find the petition letter anywhere.
We learn a bit more about the objections to Parker from the Burlington North Carolina Times-News (my emphasis):
“Parker’s journalism is more than just her opinion,” the petition says, “it’s a consistent attack on all of the things Elon has been working towards – ending sexual assault, increasing diversity, and creating a safe and encouraging environment for all students regardless of gender, race, ethnic background or sexual orientation … It does not matter whether she intends to speak on any of the issues she writes so frequently about in her journalism, we as a university are praising Kathleen Parker for her opinions by bringing her to campus.”
Praising her? What about just promoting discussion? And here we see the fallacious thinking behind these protests. If you consider inviting a speaker tantamount to praising her, or approving her opinions, then of course you can’t approve any speakers whose opinions aren’t in line with yours. Students would be better off if they regarded speaking events as educational opportunities rather than as the equivalent of honorary degrees. Even if you’re sure you’re not gong to agree with someone like Parker, hearing her make her case give you a chance to hone and sharpen your own opinions. After all, you must do more than hold them—you must defend them.
What we see here is no-platforming of Parker, regardless of what she wants to speak about. If you’re familiar with the argot of Scientology, Nipper and her cronies are labeling Parker a Suppressive Person (“SP”), whose every word must be suppressed. Note as well that Parker’s presence creates an “unsafe space”—the usual blather that opinions which don’t jibe completely with those of the Regressive Left are dangerous and somehow promote an “unsafe” climate.
The Pendulum, an Elon student newspaper, gives more information, clarifying that much of the opposition to Parker’s talk derives from statements about gender that the students found problematic:
The petition, titled “A Request for the Removal of Baird Pulitzer Prize Speaker Kathleen Parker,” circulated on social media late last week. It cites segments from her book, “Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care,” and her columns as showing “undoubtable bias against women, sexual assault victims, and people of color.”
“A lot of people think we’re taking issue with her politics, her personal stances — that’s not it,” said Nipper, noting that she and others have read Parker’s book and dove into her Washington Post archives. “(Her book) perpetuates something that’s extremely dangerous and we’re actively fighting against. It’s something the administration has been truly working hard on.
“To have a speaker who actively supports that kind of thinking, brought in by the university as somebody who would speak to everybody, is detrimental and very dangerous.”
Translation: “Anyone who doesn’t agree with my opinion is dangerous.” Finally, the right-wing Campus Reform did get hold of Nipper’s petition, and found some problems with it:
The petition claims that Elon students have found “some very disturbing things” in Parker’s writing that made her unfit. The petition quotes several excerpts from her book to shed light on her allegedly dangerous rebuke of modern feminism.
They include “[a]llow me to translate. There’s no way to make men into women,” and “[t]he reality is that men have been screwed, and not in the way that they prefer.”
Hyperlinks in the Google Doc sent readers to two of Parker’s Washington Post columns, but were written in a way that confuses their actual title. A link to Parker’s “Unanswered questions in Trayvon Martin case” is hyperlinked under “Racial profiling is common sense.” The words “Women are using alcohol as a way to blame men for sexual assault” linked to “Sex after drinking and the war on women.”
The Good News is that the University administration slapped the petition down like a buzzing mosquito. Here’s a tweet from the head editor of the Pendulum, reporting the University’s response as issued by Dan Anderson, Elon’s Vice President of University Communications:
That’s a damn good response, and it should make Ms. Nipper reconsider her histrionic censorship. But it won’t. What will happen to people like her when they enter the real world? In my darkest moments, I imagine that someday they’ll be in charge. And if we get a country run by Pecksniffs like Nipper, I can’t see that it would be much less repressive than a country run by Donald Trump.
p.s. Parker will apparently be speaking at Elon on October 4.