March 13, 2024

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | To Provost Kotlikoff, Ann Coulter Has No Place on This Campus

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An Open Letter to Provost Kotlikoff, Re: “University Has Reportedly Invited Ann Coulter ’84 Back to Campus” (news, March 10)

Dear Mike,

In the fall I came on your radar briefly because I was a professor doing the very hard work of getting students to quietly and compassionately listen to one another across lines of difference during a horrible time.  You came to my class to see my ragtag and diverse group of fabulous people.  In the class you visited, I said that some days I feel like the campus has gasoline dumped all over it and I fear someone will strike a match. I go to bed and wake up at night worrying about how this could play out for my students.  

I feel that match has been struck with the invitation of Ann Coulter ’84. I am shocked that the invitation came from within the administration and that you thought it was a great idea.  It was not a great idea.  It was a very bad idea and the administration’s participation made it worse. 

Other than being a Cornell alum and a famous controversialist, Coulter contributes nothing civil or thoughtful to the public discourse.  She adores causing a fire, burning things down and inflaming tensions. She peddles in racism and hate. She is not a litmus test for free speech.  She works with hate speech. That an invitation has been extended to her from the highest echelons of the administration is absolutely and without a doubt the opposite of the kind of decision one would want to see. It is reckless, inconsiderate and insulting to those of us trying to uphold the mission of this university.

There are moments you need to publicly admit a mistake and change course.  This is one of them. Publicly reverse course. Do it now. If you want to invite a prominent right-wing speaker, there are choices you could have made. It is an utter waste of our time as an institution to try and figure out how to respond to a person like Coulter with the high stakes the world faces right now. And if your Board of Trustees thinks this was also a good idea, let the faculty educate them about what it feels like to be doing the hard work of keeping young minds thinking critically and compassionately and then have the highest level of administration invite the wrecking ball.

I implore you to reverse course, clearly and publicly, on this matter. Uninvite Ann Coulter and make it clear that you do not consider hate speech to be what this campus needs right now. It is laudable to make a mistake, own it and change directions.  Make that the teaching moment.  The world needs that model right now.

To be clear, in case I have understated my position: This is a terrible mistake. Rescind the invitation. Take the heat for that, not what will happen when she comes to campus and revels in chaos.

— Prof. Jane Marie Law, Asian studies, religious studies