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Coulter Controversy Prompts Fordham Law Faculty Member to Write Open Letter to McShane

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Faculty members call for “clear statement of the basis for these funding and censorship decisions” from McShane and Fordham administration.

Managing Editor
Published: November 15, 2012
Updated: 8:20pm

Tracy Higgins, professor of law at Fordham Law, and Bridgette Dunlap, Human Rights Fellow at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice, with support and input from other Fordham Law faculty members, have written an open letter to Fordham President Father Joseph M. McShane, S.J. in response to the funding of Ann Coulter’s Fordham visit, originally scheduled for Nov. 29 but since has been cancelled. The letter, circulated to Fordham Law faculty by professor of law Steve Thel, asks for a clear stance from the administration on its previously inconsistent support, both in promotion and funding policies, of student groups and events. The letter also asks for support from the student body through a petition form at the bottom of their address to McShane.

The group calls for “a clear statement of the basis for these funding and censorship decisions in light of their manifest inconsistency.”

(Kyle Cassidy/Wikimedia Commons)

“Though the College Republicans withdrew the invitation to Ms. Coulter in light of the outcry from their peers, the problem remains that the University was willing to allocate over $10,000 to this event even while denying funding to other student and departmental initiatives featuring speakers or topics with which it disagrees,” the letter reads.

While the writer celebrates McShane’s decision to distance the university from Coulter’s message it continues to say that “we remain deeply troubled, however, by the University’s inconsistency regarding which events it denies funding or otherwise censors on campus,” specifically bringing the examples of the Vagina Monologues, a controversial event by Fordham undergraduates each year to raise awareness of violence against women.

“[I]t was a wonderful statement that Father McShane made and a very robust defense of academic freedom, discourse, and dialogue, and we want to be sure that we are living up to that and it doesn’t seem that we are,” Dunlap said.

The group also mentions administration’s opposition to Fordham’s pro-choice advocacy while anti-abortion clubs recieve school funding and the red tape faced by Prescribe Fordham 2 events, an off-campus birth control clinic night, in attempting to post flyers in Fordham.

“I think that’s pretty problematic and not reflective of the kind of place Fordham is,” Dunlap said of Fordham’s discrimination between forms of student involvement.”Fordham is a place where we have scholarship and debate and respectful discussion of different ideas. So, we shouldn’t be silencing the legitimate conversations that we ought to be having.”

“Why are these forms of student expression and association denied support while the Coulter event was not? Is pro-choice advocacy or the Vagina Monologues more inconsistent with the University’s mission than Coulter’s hate speech you rightly decry? Are they less entitled to respect in the free exchange of ideas in the Academy?”

While they may be disappointed in the administration for its lack of consistent action, Dunlap said it was “fortunate” how the Coulter disagreement was handled by students.

“I have been very impressed by the poise and constructiveness and thoughtfulness of the undergraduate groups that I have seen working on some of these issues. T]he undergraduates worked it out amongst themselves and I think that is a situation where the solution to what was likely to be pretty problematic speech was more speech and that the undergraduates appealed to each other. I think that is wonderful.”

To read the open letter to McShane in its entirety or to voice your support of the response, click here.


11 Responses to “Coulter Controversy Prompts Fordham Law Faculty Member to Write Open Letter to McShane”

  1. Damian Wilhelm on November 16th, 2012 2:49 pm

    Fordham to Host Infanticide Promoting Peter Singer

    “He is also a defender of killing the aged (if they have dementia), newborns (for almost any reason until they are two years old), necrophilia (assuming it’s consensual), and bestiality (also assuming it’s consensual).”

  2. juandos on November 18th, 2012 9:02 am

    Bridgette Dunlap, Human Rights Fellow at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice‘…

    Hmmm, interesting way of saying the fool has a degree that’s even more useless than a degree in art history…

    College Republicans = cowards!

  3. Casey on November 19th, 2012 10:39 am

    Why do you think a law degree is useless?

  4. David Public on November 19th, 2012 12:53 pm

    In his seminal work, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, British news correspondent William Shirer tells what it was like to be a foreign correspondent living within Germany under the influence of incessant propaganda.

    “Though unlike most Germans I had daily access to foreign newspapers, especially those of London, Paris and Zurich, which arrived the day after publication, and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in a casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a café, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say a s much, but on such occasion one was met such a stare of incredulity, such as shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for truth, said they were.”

    With our increasingly compartmentalized media — where one can select a source of information based on its bias — it is possible to inadvertently live in such a one-sided world. The effects are insidious.

    Never knew anything about Fordham. Now I know it is “led” by someone who is apparently (a) afraid of alternative, legitimate, points of view, and (b) does not see the value of dialog.

  5. Regina Wilson Daly, UGE on November 28th, 2012 1:16 pm

    Re the Vagina Monologues controversy

    Why are some people forgetting that Fordham is first, and foremost, a Catholic University. Its motto is Sapiencia et Doctrina: Wisdom and DOCTRINE.

    Radical anti-Catholic staff won’t enable the University to further its primary mission to provide students with opportunities for intellectual, moral and religious development to promote good leadership in the world.

  6. Mary on November 28th, 2012 4:22 pm

    There is no comparison to the Republican Club hosting Ann Coulter, who has very pointed opinions about the liberal lunacy of this culture we live in, versus other students hosting pro-abortion and crassly sexually explicit programs that are the antithesis of the moral standards of the Roman Catholic faith. The first involves showing the ugliness of intolerant liberalism (showing the truth is not hateful—it is reality), the latter involves promotion of instrinsic evil. This is a Catholic College, supposedly. These law professors are obviously not faithful Catholics. I just love these nominal, cafeteria Catholics or even non-Catholics who attend or teach at Catholic institutions. They pick and choose what they will practice as far as their faith goes. Then they insist that everyone else follow their moral standards (or lack of). Instead of starting their own school or own religion, they want to modify ours. We are living in an age of great intolerance….by the left. And with the HHS Mandate, it will only get worse. We must pray for the grace to stay firm and hold fast. Hopefully we won’t lose our head like Thomas More, but I hope we would be willing to pay the ultimate price should it come to that.

  7. tomas lavin on November 28th, 2012 6:49 pm

    Calling Coulter’s witty and truthful message as “hate speech” is no reason to remove her constitutional right to freedom of speech at Fordham. It takes a legally twisted and intolerant mind to reverse the meaning of the First Amendment and apply silencing techniques to their opponents. There is no better example of violence to women and removal of freedom than the Communist Chinese one baby policy which is enforced by tattling, thuggery and mandated abortions or involuntary and unwilling but politically correct parental infanticide. The Fordham law faculty who disagree with
    Catholic moral teaching should willingly submit their resignations now or soon expect to receive letters requesting their resignations for cause.

  8. burke cueny on November 30th, 2012 10:31 am

    shut down the Fordham LAw School until they can
    afford professors who are Catholic in mind and integrity. Supporting filth, anti catholic themes
    can be continued at public institutions. Congrats
    to Fr. McShane for promoting Catholicism

  9. CS on November 30th, 2012 1:42 pm

    The University makes a huge amount of money off the Law School, so it would not be in Fordham’s interest to shut it down as you suggest.

    Also, Fordham is a school “in the Jesuit tradition.” It is not Catholic in the sense of being controlled by the Church. This must be true in order for Fordham to receive its taypayer funding from the state of New York, which is available only educational institutions that are not controlled by a religious denomination.

  10. JDS on December 5th, 2012 2:50 pm

    Is this really all about money? Coulter is free to go onto any university campus any time, and Im sure she’d be welcome to a debate. But how did this initial speaking contract with Fordham evolve? Was there an initial offer by someone unauthorized to write checks for the university? Did they say they couldn’t afford “over $10,000”? (actually her normal fee is around $40,000). So is this just a straw argument?

  11. Aneta on January 4th, 2013 11:45 am

    Anika,I’m echoing Tiff. Thanks for the wodnerful post. Lansing and its might has grown on me. I’m from the East Coast. I’ve lived in big cities most of my life. But there’s something about Lansing and being able to truly feel the pulse of life, the sweat of our brothers, the heart of our sisters in our day-in and day-out activities.There is depth in simplicity and humble efforts. And from those seeds new growth will spring up with impacts we can only dream of.B

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