In a rapidly evolving chain of events, administrators at Saint Louis University have made repeated attempts to modify, censor, and disparage the content of retired Lt. Col. Allen West’s forthcoming speech on their campus.
West had planned to spend part of his presentation discussing his experiences as a veteran in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and discuss the negative effects of radical Islam. However, according to YAF, an administrator at SLU barred the SLU College Republicans chapter from using the phrase “radical Islam” on advertising related to the event. The same administrator claimed that West did not have sufficient experience to discuss radical Islam, despite his military and political experience.
In a response on his own website, West decried the school’s attempt to censor the event and its advertising. His article reads in part:
This reminds me of the statement by John Kerry that if the media just didn’t talk about Islamic terrorism, it would not be an issue. This “administrator” at St. Louis University represents the most deplorable embodiment of fascism. Here we are less than a week from a weekend of Islamic terrorist attacks and this individual does not want students to have an in-depth discussion about the most serious, savage, and barbaric threat this Nation has faced — well, at least since the Barbary Pirates.
Campus groups, chief among them the Muslim Students Association, announced their opposition to the event after West released his statement, citing West’s claim linking the MSA to terrorist groups.
SLU’s Student Government Association sent a campus-wide email to SLU students calling for West’s speech to be cancelled. The SGA claimed that West’s presence on campus would violate the SLU “Oath of Inclusion,” and called West both “ignorant” and a “paranoid bigot.”
Sharing her experiences as a former SLU student, YAF Program Officer Amy Lutz called the SGA’s statement “laughable.” She added that, despite the oath’s commitment to “ideological diversity,” campus speakers have almost always been progressive or liberal. Lutz also cited the fact that conservative speakers like David Horowitz have been banned in the past. “If the student government at Saint Louis University really wants to be more inclusive and ‘civil,’ perhaps they should start with themselves?”
(Editors’ Note: Amy Lutz was also a former editor with TheCollegeConservative.)
In a letter to the student body, SLU President Fred Postello defended West’s right to speak, but also called him a “provocateur” and decried the portions of West’s statement that tied the Muslim student group.
Now, on the evening of the event, SLU’s students and administration have taken additional steps to control and protest West’s speech. The administration, in response to the protests, announced that it planned to have an SLU faculty member speak before West to “contextualize” his message. Additionally, student protest groups announced that they would be hosting a peaceful “cupcake sale” outside the event, and would donate any proceeds to Syrian refugee groups. This is in response to West’s comments referring to students demanding campus safe spaces as “little cupcakes.”
These events, which rapidly unfolded over the course of the last week and a half, raise serious questions about SLU’s commitment to ideological diversity and academic inquiry. Deciding what constitutes “sufficient experience” to talk on a subject should not be the role of a rogue campus administrator. Additionally, the overwhelming response from student leaders and the administration declaring West’s statements on the MSA and terrorism to be pure hate speech–despite reporting suggesting that those claims are at least somewhat based in fact–suggests that the intellectual culture at SLU is in a less-than-ideal state.
West will speak at SLU on Thursday, Sept. 29 (tonight). YAF asks the public to support their demand that West be given an open platform to speak. Contact information for various SLU offices and officials may be found on the YAF website.