Letter to the Editor: Roger Stone Sets Fordham Ablaze

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Letter to the Editor: Roger Stone Sets Fordham Ablaze

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By The College Republicans

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Dear Editor,

‘Slash and burn’ was a prominent agricultural technique employed by Native Americans. Essentially, natives would take all the dead undergrowth and set it aflame. This would kill the live crops as well. From it came a stronger, more solidified crop: One that resisted the flames and unified together.

“Go forth, set the world on fire” – St. Ignatius of Loyola

We at the College Republicans—after much thought and reflection on Ignatian values and the current political climate on campus—collectively decided upon the need to open a dialogue. Like many before us, we journeyed to set Fordham on fire.
This came in the form of inviting a singular speaker, Roger Stone, to campus. Due to the ‘Dirty Trickster’s’ past antics and experience, we felt the libertarian provocateur was an appropriate opener for what we anticipate to be a reconciliatory and formative year. Roger Stone represents both the rejection of duopolistic politics and the nuances of left and right philosophies. While some of his comments have been racially and sexually insensitive to say the least, his insight is nonetheless important for political debate.

On Tuesday, Oct. 10, Keating first filled with hundreds of students eager to see what the infamous Roger Stone had to say. Between fears of hateful rhetoric and political insight, the audience was keen to see the outcome of the event. During the event, jeers and allegations of historical racism within the Republican Party arose. Roger Stone did not leave these accusations unanswered. Stone reminded the crowd of Richard Nixon, Stone’s famously favorite candidate. He was the presidential candidate who pushed Stone into the political arena, and a tattoo of Nixon can be found on Stone’s back.

Stone alluded to Nixon often, for Eisenhower charged Nixon with spearheading the 1957 Civil Rights Act. According to the Nixon Foundation, “Nixon did so vigorously, battling high-ranking Southern Democrats like Richard Russell of Georgia, and Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson.” Stone’s insight shed light on the lesser known, dark history of the Democratic Party, and he was able to disarm some of the historically inaccurate prejudices held by many before his speech.
“He [Nixon] started the war on drugs!” A crowd member shouted, referring to an initiative many believe to be racially charged. Stone solemnly acquiesced, “I disagreed with him vehemently on this issue and urged him not to do so.” This moment here captures the pinnacle of our rationale in inviting Roger Stone: discourse.

While Stone is a deeply flawed character, he also forced students to talk. He was the spark to a much needed debate. The overarching goal of the new administration of the College Republicans is not to force provocation, but to encourage dialogue. Historically, College Republican clubs hold a higher membership nationally than that of their Democrat counterparts. This comes with a heavy weight of responsibility as we take part in the transformation of campus culture. It is undeniable that Roger Stone drew one of the largest crowds for a political club speaker in recent Fordham history.

While some people were drowned out by various interruptive screeches in the crowd, others were able to ask the hard questions. The attentive students in that room received insight into the history of political strategy, Stone’s career and the unconventional victory of former Fordham student President Donald J. Trump. Moreso than many other speaking events, people engaged in debate, conversation, mutual disagreement and understanding. The tensions of this past election and the resulting grieving process for some have yet to subside on campus. Stone was the medicine for healing, the slash and burn into a new era.

Immediately following our announcement of Stone’s speech, the president of ASILI, senior Anya Patterson, penned an op-ed in The Fordham Ram entitled “Fordham Fails its Mission By Allowing Roger Stone to Campus.” In it, Patterson discussed her grievances with both the administration and Stone himself. She wrote, “The administration has failed us. […] I personally believe that the clearest restriction of free speech on this campus is evident in the fact that I have to sign papers and meet with administrators for permission to protest. While the topic of protest policy is not up for debate in this piece, my frustrations with these policies are worth being expressed.” Her concern for the way in which Fordham sporadically suppresses and exalts free speech is not unfounded. FIRE rates us as one of 10 worst free speech campuses in America. After a budgetary conflict with USG, we as a club were faced with a lack of funding for our speaker, and questions of restrictions of speech surely arose. So, we sympathize with Anya’s concern.

Patterson continued to voice her dismay with the administration, saying, “you have handed the mic to my oppressor.” After listing the derogatory tweets and remarks that Stone has made, she suggested that Fordham’s inability to draw in a diverse crowd lies in their decision to allow students to advocate for her “oppressors.” To fix said issue of diversity, she encouraged Fordham to, “focus on the fact that you have allowed speakers like Roger Stone, who symbolizes the marginalization and discrimination that we fight against, to speak on your campus.” Despite Patterson’s concerns, the entirety of the speech was void of verbal oppression. If anything, it facilitated healthy conflict and respectful disagreement.

Additionally, Greg Wagner over at the Fordham Political Review wrote a strongly accusatory piece on us. With hyperbolic false equivalencies to Milo Yiannopoulos, Wagner attempted to paint a picture of us as a pack conservative bullies. Without reaching out for a comment from our College Republican chapter, other conservative-leaning students, or even from left-leaning groups on campus, Wagner set out to illustrate a narrative that he created. While spending three paragraphs on Milo and Ann Coulter—two people who have no relation to Stone—Wagner relegates his outrage with Stone to one paragraph. We only wish he had reached out to us sooner. Perhaps, he could have seen our side.

Having said that, if Stone did not speak at our campus, these responses would have never been written, let alone been given as much attention. While we may disagree with the viewpoints of Anya and Greg, we were ecstatic to see that they cared. Their pieces showed us that there are people willing to begin a conversation. It was a symbolic gesture across the aisle. Like most students, they are emblematic of the desire to be heard politically. Their yearning to speak their mind and capture the attention of the campus came solely because of the perceived contentious nature of our speaker. Thankfully, no one was physically hurt in the process.

Despite a plethora of negative responses, the College Republicans are proud of the event. As mentioned earlier, this dialogue would have never ensued without a headliner who grabbed attention. The lack of desire to create constructive dialogue from other political groups on campus saddens us. Stone’s speech marks a cornerstone to a rebuilding of a foundation, one previously built on sand and washed away by the tides of tribalistic retreat and mob mentality. Like a phoenix from the ashes, events like these force you and I and our opinions out into the open, hands outstretched, ready to talk. It is the only way forward. It is the only way onward.

Best,
The College Republicans

—Sebastian Balasov, President of College Republicans; Colton Hillman, Vice President of College Republicans; Dominique Marino, Treasurer of College Republicans; Jacob Floam, Secretary of College Republicans