Should Schools Invite Controversial Speakers?
posted by Daniel Solove
An article in Inside Higher Ed discusses the position of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) with regard to inviting controversial speakers (such as Ann Coulter and Michael Moore) to university campuses:
Since the 2004 election, the American Association of University Professors has been reviewing the issue of controversial political speakers and it has now published a proposed statement reiterating the importance of inviting such people to campuses — and rejecting the idea that speakers must be balanced, person by person, as invitations go out.
The new AAUP statement rejects two arguments commonly given for disinviting Moore last election cycle and some controversial figures generally: that they lack balance or that their presence on campus could endanger an institution’s tax-exempt status.
I certainly agree that schools shouldn’t shy away from controversy, and I agree with the AAUP position, but I also agree with this comment to the Inside Higher Ed article:
The problem that isn’t being addressed here is that provocateurs like Moore and Coulter are brought in as speakers in the first place. They command high fees to present recycled tedious, predictable polemical rants that lack intellectual depth and rigor. They substitute cleverness and wordplay for genuine argument, and they offer little or nothing that is new or imaginative.
The money would be better spent on bringing in genuine scholars and intellectuals (our college has recently hosted W.S. Merwin and Seamus Heaney, for instance), in which case the need for this sort of policy would vanish.