To the Editor:
On Wednesday night, Cornell University — the number one ranked school in New York, an Ivy League institution, a self-avowed destination for “any person, any study” — could have proved that it is a genuine marketplace of ideas. That did not happen. Credit is due to the Leadership Institute, Network of enlightened Women and Ann Coulter ’84 herself for working to make the event a reality. Because of everyone involved in allowing Coulter to speak, Cornellians had a unique opportunity to be challenged, learn and grow. None of that happened either.
Conservatives on campus had hope. The University provided the Landis Auditorium in the Law School, declined a petition to shut down the speech of an alumna and prefaced the event with a statement in support of free speech, promising consequences for any disruption. Comments accusing event organizers (and even conservatives with no connection) of supporting fascism, a piece in The Sun and abhorrent harassment on social media were unsuccessful in deterring the event. Even the alumni community chimed in, with said piece being skillfully ripped apart by Robert Platt ’73 Law ’76.
But finally, when Coulter walked down the stairs on the far-left side of Landis Auditorium, some students — who we are ashamed to call our peers — launched a concerted effort to prevent her from speaking. These disruptors used the most juvenile tactics, unfit for an institution of Cornell’s caliber, to shut Coulter down. After 20 minutes of sustained disruptions and harassment, yet another statement from the University’s Associate Dean of Students and eight student removals, there was no chance for the event to move forward.
In a time when many across the country hate their neighbors, harbor suspicion of their co-workers and desire the very worst for their political enemies, the ability to learn from those with whom we disagree is of incalculable value. The students who disrupted this event, to be sure, blotted the reputation of our beloved alma mater. Yet they did something far worse, too; they shut down a core value of our nation: freedom of speech. They robbed students across campus of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
When a famed alumna returned to her alma mater after 16 years, she was not met with intellectual resistance and good conversation. No, she found flatulence noises, clown music, profanity, mindless tirades and baseless accusations of fascism to everyone right-of-center. These disruptors could not stomach even a minute of discourse with which they disagreed.
Wednesday was a dark day for the University. What happened on Wednesday contradicts the core values of our nation. Cornell must take swift action to punish those involved, including — but not limited to—the eight students escorted out of the event. Simple apologies are not enough. Free speech was thwarted on Wednesday. The American ideal of the University was thwarted on Wednesday. We will not stand by and watch the death of free speech at this university. We demand Cornell take action against those who silenced discourse on Wednesday night.
The Executive Board
College Republicans at Cornell