February 14, 2017

EDITORIAL: Make It Public

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“‘The forgotten man and woman will be forgotten no longer.’ I’ll explain tonight, 7:30 pm, Cornell,” tweeted Michael Johns, co-founder of the Tea Party movement and conservative policy analyst.

Johns was scheduled to give a public talk, hosted by the Cornell Political Union, at Anabel Taylor Hall at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening to discuss the merits of a Trump administration. However, on Monday, CPU turned the event private after speaking Cornell University Police Department about the intent of campus organizations and certain community members to protest the guest speaker. “I was told the Union could either pay $2000 in security fees to ensure the presence of CUPD officers at the event, cancel it altogether or make it private,” said Troy LeCaire ’17, co-founder of CPU. The public was kept in the dark as CPU refused to disclose further details about the event, which is open only to Union members and certain guests.

CPU’s decision to make a once-public event private is an unfortunate one that speaks to a more insidious trend on campus. The inability of an organization to host speakers without incurring serious financial costs and coordinating a police presence is a problem that needs to be addressed. The best conversations are always those that are accessible to all willing participants, and closing Mr. Johns’ event makes it much more difficult for students across campus to partake in such a conversation. Cornell Political Union should do everything in its ability to make sure that, although closed physically, the event is disseminated to as many students as possible, either via a live stream or video recording posted online.

The University must work more closely with its student organizations to ensure that this situation never arises again. Discussions, even those relating to controversial topics, should include as much of the community as possible. Cornell should look into providing free or discounted logistical support to organizations facing these difficulties. The fear of protest or the spectre of overwhelming fees should not inhibit open discussion.