President Trump last week signed an executive order that links federal research and education grants for colleges and universities to their unwavering commitment to “[promoting] free inquiry.” Translation: The long-standing progressive censorship game at colleges and universities is now over. Universities and colleges will immediately cease shutting down, impeding or permitting the disruption of conservative speakers, or now risk losing billions of federal research dollars that are generously given away each year to these institutions of higher learning. It is unfortunate that such an order has become a confrontational stance on America’s campuses, but academia has sadly reached that point. Young America’s Foundation, for instance, favorably settled a lawsuit over this precise issue with the University of California, Berkeley last December. UC Berkeley, facing a constitutional challenge to its speaking protocols, agreed to abolish its “high-profile speaker policy” and speaking fee schedule while implementing a policy that ensures that heckling protesters will no longer be permitted to shut down speakers on campus.
When I read Michael Johns, Jr.’s column, I was both hurt and disappointed. Hurt by the implication that I — as an atheist — lack a proper moral framework, and disappointed that in the 21st century there are still those who cling to the belief that organized religion is a necessity for people to have morals. I do not feel a need, as an atheist, to attack the moral foundations of others, and I am quite confident in my morals and what I choose to believe. I do not feel a need to become religious, and yet some will continue to insist that I am, somehow, lost. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut ’44, “I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishments after I’m dead.” I may not hold the fear of God in my heart, but I am perfectly capable as a human of formulating and understanding my own morals.
Surely, Cornell’s Event Management Planning Team wants to get it right this time. After last semester’s fiery blowback, EMPT recently announced that a “new, innovative” event security fee system was forthcoming. The announcement — a passing reference tucked away deep in the umpteenth line of a campus-wide bulletin — revealed no new plan, nor did it evince any new understanding of why the event security fee is so loathed. We’ve got no doubt that EMPT has a wonderfully meticulous plan to charge student organizations for security, replete with venue size breakdowns and clever classification schemes for what constitutes a “controversy.” Better would be to scrap it all. The event security fee is in fundamental tension with the University’s commitment to free expression.
“The University, through its current policy — intentional or not — imposes additional financial and administrative costs on groups wishing to host conservative speakers,” said Troy LeCaire ’17, president of the Cornell Political Union.
What is free speech? We often proclaim its importance, but rarely is it defined. Free speech is when everyone, yes everyone, has the ability to speak and be heard respectfully. Shouting down speakers we disagree with is antithetical to free speech. In an academic environment such as Cornell, it is of fundamental importance to engage in various debates and to allow for a variety of opinions.
“Maybe other people wouldn’t have done it, but I think that I was the first person to really stand up to protesters because I think the University has really shirked the responsibility of upholding the code,” said Mitch McBride ’17.
Barred from entry, about 15 students gathered outside Rockefeller Hall on Tuesday to protest a private lecture by Tea Party leader and former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush, Michael Johns. Cornell Political Union announced on Monday that the event — titled “Trumpism Can Make America Great Again” — would be closed to the public after Cornell Police told the union it either had to pay $2,000 in security fees, cancel the event or make it private because of security concerns, according to Troy LeCaire ’17, the group’s president. Johns is a co-founder and a leader of the Tea Party movement and has notably served as speechwriter for former President George H.W. Bush. His endorsement of President Donald J. Trump and outspoken conservative statements have sparked controversy in the political sphere. Read The Sun’s coverage:
Michael Johns spoke at an event on Tuesday hosted by Cornell Political Union — a bipartisan group that invites lecturers to speak on political topics — in a lecture, titled “Trumpism Can Make America Great Again.” The event, although originally intended to be public, was made private per advice from Cornell University Police Department and was open only to Union members and selected invited guests. The event, although originally intended to be public, was recently made private per advice from Cornell University Police Department and is now open only to Union members and selected invited guests. The location of the lecture has been kept private and undisclosed even to attendees until only hours before the event. Johns is a co-founder and a leader of the Tea Party movement and has notably served as speechwriter for former President George H.W. Bush.
ByTroy LeCaire, on behalf of the Cornell Political Union |
On Tuesday evening, the Cornell Political Union hosted Michael Johns, Sr., a conservative political activist and Tea Party leader, to speak to the body about President Trump’s ideology and his perspectives on American populism. He spoke mostly to explain, not to defend, and attempted to offer his perspective and confer an understanding of this brand of politics. We considered this talk valuable and necessary, and are proud that we hosted it. We also believe Mr. Johns was wrong — at the end of our event, we voted to reject Mr. Johns’ ideology on a vote of 40-14. When we first announced this event, it was met with a great deal of interest and excitement from the Cornell community.