April 19, 2024

GUEST ROOM | Kolikoff, Invite David Duke as a Guest Speaker

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What makes peaceful protest destructive, while open and flagrant hate speech isn’t? To Provost Kolikoff, the difference lies in whoever is better suited to line Cornell’s pockets, and stir the least controversy. For Kotlikoff, controversy surrounding the emotional and personal suffering of minorities in the United States and abroad is dangerous but controversy surrounding sending them back is clearly not!

Freedom of speech means many things. To some, it plainly means that people should not be censored for the opinions they have. To others, it means holding alternative perspectives while being respectful of the stories and backgrounds of your peers. For everyone, it seems rather simple to abide by basic rules regarding respecting the speech of others. 

For Provost Kolikoff, freedom of speech is an enigma. It’s fine when the good people give their opinions, but it’s slanderous when the bad people give theirs. Like putty, Kolikoff games the concept of free speech to support his ideals when useful, and pushing back when speech is against the status quo.

Provost Kolikoff seems to think that freedom of speech means freedom to prosecute those who disagree with the University. See his stance on the Interim Expressive Activity Policy, calling student activism in favor of Palestine destructive. What makes Ann Coulter deserving of more protections than the students and staff that work and pay for the University to operate?

Provost Kolikoff, any person with access to Google will be able to tell you that hurtful rhetoric leads to hurtful actions. If you see antisemitism and other problems as detrimental to the students of Cornell, inviting Ann Coulter will only encourage more hate on this campus. You seem to be agitating more for a race war than mutual understanding, though you frame the invitation of Coulter as the latter. Would it really be shocking to think that “respecting alternative perspectives” does not entail giving racists a platform? If alternative perspectives are to be welcomed, why were students not allowed to bring cameras and recording devices to her talk so that they can record the vitriol spewing from her mouth in real time for the world to see? If she is so capable of giving her opinion, why not then allow students to showcase her thoughts?

It seems that Ann Coulter isn’t actually fine with respecting differing perspectives, shown when calling Communications  professor Monica Cornejo a crybaby for giving her opinion. Would she be fine with non-whites in this country, given how she speaks out against non-white chain migration? 

Provost Kolikoff is fine with Ann Coulter talking about the lesser value of Afghan and Mexican immigrants, the lesser value of people who don’t “speak our language” (America does not have an official language) and overall uses the same rhetoric clean-shaven white nationalists have used for decades in defending white American heritage. It is reprehensible rhetoric that any student wise enough to be at Cornell (or any professor wise enough to educate here) should condemn. Provost Kolikoff doesn’t mind in the slightest; even when he personally disagrees, he believes that “freedom of expression” trumps the physical and emotional safety of students on this campus. If this is his sincere belief, then I only have one suggestion, in line with his support for inviting white nationalists to campus.

I would recommend inviting David Duke as a guest speaker, as it falls squarely in line with the precedent Provost Kolikoff has now set. As long as he does not advocate for violence in his lecture, he is fine to give his opinion on matters such as non-white immigration to the United States and the rise in antisemitism since October 7th. If anything, it should help loosen controversy after the Coulter debacle, and as far as Kotlikoff is concerned it will help boost Cornell’s image by helping us understand alternative perspectives. Really, why say no?

Zoran Naroo is a sophomore in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning. He can be reached at [email protected].

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