…I’m proud of my employer, the University of Sangamon at Big City. A certain very controversial presidential candidate from one of the major parties will soon be holding a rally at a campus event center, and the chancellor has declined to heed calls to forbid that candidate from appearing.
The chancellor has issued a statement that says in part, “Consistent with its role as a public university, the University of [redacted] is not endorsing, sponsoring or supporting any candidate for political office,” said the statement. “At the same time, it has been our standard practice for decades to rent available space on campus to any political candidate when requested. As a result, we have a long history of campaign events on campus, and no legal basis to exclude any candidate because of the views he or she expresses.”
Elsewhere, perhaps the same statement (I’m cut and pasting from a couple different articles), the chancellor says “”[the university]’s core values of freedom, equality and social justice for all, regardless of race, religion, national origin, disability status or sexual orientation, are deeply rooted in our diverse community and not endangered by the presence of any political candidate on campus,” [the Chancellor] wrote. “We encourage public and civic engagement by all members of our University and we endorse the idea that the answer to speech that one does not like or finds offensive is more speech and not censorship.”
Some faculty and staff have signed a petition claiming that university should cancel the rally for safety concerns. I hope they’re wrong. But even if they’re right, I wouldn’t want to forbid political speech just because of safety concerns. And this is political speech in the most obvious sense of the word. If a rally by the front runner for a major party’s nomination for president doesn’t count as “political” speech, I’m not sure what does. And for what it’s worth, the university is taking safety precautions (although I don’t know what kind).
I won’t be going to the rally. My biggest worry about it happening on campus–aside from the fact that I don’t support the candidate–is that it will probably make it hard to leave work on time this Friday by tying up buses and city trains.
I’m used to criticizing my university. It has in the past had a tendency to adopt the most weak-willed, tepid positions in defense of mediocrity. Its sister university–the University of Sangamon at Flagship City–recently had a controversy where it denied a job it had offered to someone seemingly because of that person’s extramural political speech. That was a closer case than this one, but from what I have heard, the chief negative consequence wouldn’t have been “safety” concerns, but some major donors discontinuing their support for the university.
So good on the university and the chancellor for doing the right thing. Here’s hoping everything goes off peaceably and that the candidate and the inevitable protesters enjoy the right to make their views heard.
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