One University’s Double Standard on “Inclusion”
Two years ago, my school, Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, passed what it calls The Oath of Inclusion. The aim of the “oath” is to preserve a tolerant and open campus “in the spirit of inclusion.” The document in part reads:
I will embrace people for the diversity of their identities, creating a community inclusive of race, ethnicity, sex, age, ability, faith, orientation, gender, class and ideology. I will challenge my worldview through education inside and outside the classroom.
However, over my three and a half years at SLU, I have seen my university fail to live up to this standard time and time again — at least with regards to the “ideology” portion of the oath and unspoken claim to preserve an open-minded atmosphere on campus. The following narrative will serve to prove my point.
Earlier this morning, I was alerted by The David Horowitz Freedom Center about an anti-Israel conference set to take place September 21-23 on my school’s campus. I was familiar with the center because my freshman year, the university banned David Horowitz from campus because they were concerned his speech on “Islamo-Fascism” could be construed as “attacking another faith.” Horowitz subsequently released a statement claiming that SLU’s opposition of his speech was based upon “gross and demonstrable lies” and that the university’s action constituted “raw censorship.” I could not agree more. The SLU College Republicans (over which I currently preside) issued a press release detailing its side of the story but its efforts were in vain. Even though the campus has hosted Holocaust revisionist Norman Finkelstein in the past, Horowitz was somehow deemed “too controversial” (or perhaps, too conservative).
Yet, now, three years later, Saint Louis University has seemingly reversed its fears over a campus guest “attacking another faith.” The conference next week entitled “End the Occupation,” will take place in our Busch Student Center, a common gathering spot for students. Note: The conference is not sponsored by the University, but outside groups must go through an approval process and pay a fee before hosting an event on campus. The organization hosting the event, also called “End the Occupation,” works in the St. Louis area to “end the Israeli occupation and apartheid of Palestine”. Their website is almost completely filled with Anti-Israel posts, news stories and blogs. They have even come out in support of “Specially Designated Terrorist” Muhammad A. Salah, a known supporter of Hamas. SLU deemed David Horowitz “controversial” but then allows this organization to hold an event in close proximity to thousands of students? I sense an issue here, or rather, a double standard.
Saint Louis University officials claimed that David Horowitz’s speech would not live up to the ideals of university’s mission. I claim, rather, that the school has failed once again to live up to its own mission. Tolerance and “inclusion” are not selective. My school is offended by an out-of-context assumption about a conservative speaker but is seemingly tacitly supportive of an organization whose main goal is to dismantle the state of Israel as we know it. The College Republicans have fallen outside the university’s seemingly narrow standard of “inclusion,” but “End the Occupation” fits nicely inside. I should not be surprised, however, since anti-Israel sentiment bubbles under the surface of our student body here at SLU. When the university invited Holocaust survivor Eli Weisel to speak on campus several protesters rudely interrupted his speech calling for him to “come to Gaza” and see the “devastation” wrought by Israeli “occupation.” Personally, I stand with Israel and I’m offended that this kind of behavior is becoming more and more common on my campus.
Thus far, the president of St. Louis University has not responded to concerns about this conference. SLU has noble values ingrained in its mission, but I am saddened that my school has failed to live up to it’s own values again. I understand that this event is not directly sponsored by our school, but it was approved to take place on campus after David Horowitz was rejected. Until I hear differently, I take the university’s silence as tacit support of the conference. I urge St. Louis University and its student body to acknowledge this double standard and have a truly open and honest discussion about the narrow standard of “inclusion” on campus. At St. Louis University, pro-Israel sentiment is silenced while Anti-Israel thoughts are allowed to thrive. Conservatives are shunned for speaking their minds where liberal policies are encouraged. Finally, I humbly request that the University make an official statement regarding this conference. The students and St. Louis community are owed that much.
Amy Lutz | Saint Louis University | @AmyLutz4