Three Criteria for Campus Speakers: A Proposal
I have no love for Ann Coulter. Even so, I’m sorry to learn that this NYT article does not hint at the content of her planned talk. Content should be the focus, but it’s being overshadowed by other factors.
The article homes in on preemptive threats of violence. Given that, and assuming the planned talk meets certain criteria (see below), California Governor Jerry Brown ought to consider performing a “Reverse Reagan.” By this I mean that he should consider calling in the National Guard to secure speaking rights for controversial guests. I can’t say whether this should apply to the Coulter talk, but I think it could be necessary in the short term. It is ridiculous that speakers are being cancelled because campuses are being deemed unsafe for reasons one might classify, very loosely, as symbolism.
My criteria for valid invitations includes three points–two are content related, and the third deals with tone. The speaker—whether known as a politician, talk-show host, celebrity, comedian, or pseudo-intellectual—ought to be invited for their ability to (1) further academic conversations, ideas, and research, or (2) implore and inspire students to higher moral and ethical grounds. (3) The underlying criteria for those two points, or an important assumption, is seriousness in tone over and above provocation.
These criteria should be employed with regular campus speakers and those invited for graduation-convocation events.
If the speaker, during the speech act, violates these criteria, then there is justification for protest, a heckler’s veto, cancellation, or removal.
Thoughts? What am I missing? – TL