Letter: Ann Coulter’s Cancelled Visit


Dear Editor,

Just one simple man’s opinion: Nov. 10, 2012 is a sad day for Fordham, but a very good day for censorship and bullying.

I am no fan of Ann Coulter. However, I think that the College Republicans’ decision to cancel the Coulter event after being publicly humiliated by President McShane was the wrong choice, no matter how disagreeable and controversial she may be.

Apparently (based upon reading the College Republicans’ announcement in The Observer), President McShane did not reach out directly to the organization before his public statement was issued. This is most regrettable if accurate.

My reading of President McShane’s statement is that it is very thinly-veiled bullying and an assault on the very principles he asserts. The public statement by President McShane treats, by extension, not just the College Republicans, but the entire Fordham student body in a condescending and demeaning manner. It seems that the statement was meant to let you students know that you are mere children and that you will be humiliated publicly if you step out of line. From my vantage point, the very principles of academic freedom and speech were trampled upon.

President McShane is a very sophisticated communicator and his artfully-crafted statement lets him say that he did not force the cancellation; instead, thank God, clearer thinking prevailed. This is, of course, most convenient, but based upon the statement, most predictable.

In closing, I quote a private statement of another member of the Fordham alumni community: “This was predictable. The University got the result they were angling for. He went way too far. The noble thing would have been to show up and question her on her positions.”

Andrew Nargi

Fordham College ’77

Dear Editor,

As I and so many other vocal students were entangled in the Ann Coulter controversy last week, I thought to myself, regardless of our political opinions, whatever happened to freedom of speech?

A college campus is a place for higher learning and often a haven for free thinking, fresh ideas and intellectual discovery. I recall back to a past high school instructor of mine who insisted to his recent graduates that in college, they would “sit around and question” things from life to politics to religion. Nonetheless, lately it seems that the mere ability to “question” is being suppressed. The upheaval over Ms. Coulter’s visit has directly denied students, many of who may not even be familiar with her work, the chance to decide for themselves an opinion on her opinions.

In recent years, I have had the unique opportunity to experience three different colleges, and it was not until my third (Fordham) that I witnessed such disapproval from both the administration and opposing political clubs over an invitation to a well-known conservative.

Let me be clear, I am not denying that Ms. Coulter has made controversial statements in her lifetime, as do many life-long political commentators. But this alone should not hinder an individual an invitation to speak when her company is desired.

Furthermore, consistent with Jesuit values, Ms. Coulter is also entitled to her dignity. An email from our university’s president stretching the entire tri-state area (and alumni) that incensed Ms. Coulter’s rescindment was highly irregular and uncalled for. It was also grotesquely unjust to witness the College Republicans be a victim of convenient censorship. I cannot recall a single speaker the College Democrats hosted that drew criticism from university administrators and furthermore an instance when College Republicans invaded their social-media territory.

This incident has not been freedom of speech at its finest. Rather, freedom of speech has been censored. During matters like this, it is best for freedom of speech to govern. Let interested parties attend Ms. Coulter’s event and those disinterested not attend. Moreover, for those who feel so strongly of their dislike towards Ms. Coulter, they are free to protest peacefully. Where would this great nation be without the First Amendment? Surely, the answer is not free at all.

Matt Genovese, GSB ’14

Dear Editor,

I read with great personal interest the story of how Fordham University’s College Republican club invited conservative columnist Ann Coulter to speak at Fordham, then rescinded that invitation following criticism from a number of people, including Fordham’s president, the Rev. Joseph McShane.  During my four years at Fordham University, I served as chairman of Fordham’s College Republicans and later as chairman of American Age, the Fordham University lecture series.

During my time on campus in the late 1970s, Fordham invited many controversial speakers who addressed provocative topics with Fordham’s students.  Speakers included: Alger Hiss, who was accused in 1948 of being a Soviet spy and was convicted of perjury in connection with this accusation in 1950; Jane Fonda, who was photographed sitting at a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft battery in 1972 during the Vietnam War; Mark Lane and Dick Gregory, who spoke for several hours on the topic “Who Killed Kennedy and King?”; former National Organization for Women President Karen DeCrow and conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly (possibly the Ann Coulter of her time), who debated whether the Equal Rights Amendment should become part of the U.S. Constitution;  and Fereydoun Hoveyda, Iran’s United Nations Ambassador from 1971 to 1979, who spoke at Rose Hill during the height of the Iranian hostage crisis.

As lecture series chairman, the only time I ever heard from Fordham’s president, the late Rev. James C. Finlay, about our speakers was on the day of the Jane Fonda appearance.  I called Father Finlay that morning to ask him to intervene with the Fordham Athletic Department to obtain more seating for Ms. Fonda’s appearance in the Rose Hill Gymnasium.  Father Finlay made one phone call to the Athletic Department, and another 500 chairs were available for Ms. Fonda’s appearance.  The question of whether Father Finlay approved of our guest never came up.

If Fordham University could play the gracious host to Ms. Fonda and many more provocative speakers over its illustrious history, Fordham should have extended the same courtesy to Ms. Coulter.  Maybe next time, instead of rudely revoking an invitation to a contentious conservative, Fordham will follow Father Finlay’s example and order up some more chairs.


J.D. Piro, FCRH ’80