November 21, 2006

Brown University: Not a Bastion of Free Speech

Marc Comtois

Yesterday, I read in the ProJo about how Brown University had rather suspiciously banned an on-campus student evangelical group.

Leaders of the group say they were given different reasons for the action. At first, they were told it was because their local sponsor, Trinity Presbyterian Church, had withdrawn its support, which it hadn’t. Then they were told that it was because the group’s former leader had been two months late in September 2005 when he submitted the group’s application to be recognized as a campus organization. But the third reason is one that group leaders say is most baffling: the Rev. Allen Callahan, Protestant chaplain, asserted they were “possessed of a leadership culture of contempt and dishonesty that has rendered all collegial relations with my office impossible.”

Student leaders said they still don’t know what he meant, and wrote a0 long letter to the chaplain’s office seeking elaboration. There’s been no response.

“We were disappointed that the university administration should treat us so lightly that they wouldn’t even acknowledge our letter,” said the fellowship’s president, Ethan Wingfield, a senior philosophy major. “We felt disrespected.”

The F.I.R.E. organization has taken up the students' cause, but the group has yet to get a concrete explanation as to why it has been barred. Arlene Violette also had one of the students on her show yesterday (I didn't catch his name, but it may have been Wingfield) and he did state that the local chapter of the ACLU was helping the students.

Now I've discovered (via Instapundit and Judith Weiss) that Brown also cancelled a talk by Nonie Darwish last week. Darwish is an Egyptian who has gotten publicity for her willingness to talk (and she's written a book) about the radical Muslim culture in which she grew up. According to Adam Brodsky of the NY Post:

MUSLIMS are often accused of not speaking out sufficiently against terrorism. Nonie Darwish knows one reason why: Their fellow Muslims won't let them.

Darwish, who comes from Egypt and was born and raised a Muslim, was set to tell students at Brown University about the twisted hatred and radicalism she grew to despise in her own culture. A campus Jewish group, Hillel, had contacted her to speak there Thursday.

But the event was just called off.

Muslim students had complained that Darwish was "too controversial." They insisted she be denied a platform at Brown, and after contentious debate Hillel agreed.

Weird: No one had said boo about such Brown events as a patently anti-Israel "Palestinian Solidarity Week." But Hillel said her "offensive" statements about Islam "alarmed" the Muslim Student Association, and Hillel didn't want to upset its "beautiful relationship" with the Muslim community. Plus, Brown's women's center backed out of co-sponsoring the event, even though it shares Darwish's concerns about the treatment of women. Reportedly, part of the problem was that Darwish had no plans to condemn Israel for shooting Arab women used by terrorists as human shields, or for insufficiently protecting Israeli Arab wives from their husbands.

In plugging their ears to Darwish, Brown's Muslim students proved her very point: Muslims who attempt constructive self-criticism are quickly and soundly squelched - by other Muslims.

Is there a pattern here? Brown did an admirable job of justified self-flagellation in their investigation into the role that the University played in slavery (though some dispute portions of it). Perhaps they should start a new investigation into why there is a pattern of silencing those whose views--on the face of it--seem to run counter to the on campus conventional wisdom.

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Thus endeth the ACLU bashing 'round these parts (if that organization's support of Rush Limbaugh in his painkillergate hadn't already).

Posted by: Rhody at November 21, 2006 3:14 PM

Nice try Rhody. I reserve the right to "bash" (criticize) those with whom I disagree on any given issue.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at November 21, 2006 3:29 PM

The makeup of the board of thirty-six trustees will include "twenty-two Baptists, five Friends, four Congregationalists, and five Episcopalians, and by twelve Fellows, of whom eight, including the President, should be Baptists "and the rest indifferently of any or all denominations."

Evangelical Christians need not apply. The admissions office will do everything possible to screen such naive people out, but in a way so as not to jeopardize university development and/or its endowment. If an evangelical Christian is mistakenly admitted, the University shall take measures to prohibit the free practice of those superstitious beliefs. Funds that would ordinarily be used to pay for Christian organizations should instead be used to pay for intellectual endeavors such as the "SEX, POWER, GOD" party hosted by the GLBT community."

Posted by: Anthony at November 21, 2006 4:18 PM

Yeah, and Muslims who speak out against terrorism and Islamic radicalism need not apply either, nor should they be free to speak in an environment of purported academic freedom. Yahoooos!

Posted by: Chuck at November 21, 2006 7:35 PM

I'm sorry, am I supposed to be shocked? This sounds just like I have come to expect from Brown.

Posted by: Ben at November 21, 2006 8:26 PM

This is intolerance at its worst.

Who are these christophobes who pawn themselves off as academics.

What are they afraid of?

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at November 21, 2006 9:55 PM

Marc, you bash the ACLU at your peril. Are you going to suggest this aggrieved student organization should not accept the ACLU's help?
Free speech trumps the tyrannical "political correctness" of both left and right.

Posted by: Rhody at November 22, 2006 12:34 AM

I'd feel comfortable saying use the ACLU -- the operative word being "use" -- as in, to your own ends. As long as you're not paying them for their services, it's okay.

I'm not surprised that any of this is coming from the place who's main exercise in religious tolerance is the annual "Sex Power God" Party. It's a typical result of arrogant militant secularist limousine liberals with too much time, money, and power. I'm half surprised that the Brown faculty haven't protested that the school still holds commencement ceremonies in the First Baptist Church of America. How much you want to bet that the school chapter of the Church of Satan doesn't have any problems with filing paperwork, etc. (would you really be surprised if they have one?). They probably even supply the goats to them for the blood sacrifices on the altar (of course, to be killed as compassionately as possible). ;)

Posted by: Will at November 22, 2006 1:12 AM

Now, is Brown funded privately or do they receive federal monies?

And if the latter, have they endangered their public funding with this incident?

Posted by: SusanD at November 22, 2006 7:46 AM

Marc, you bash the ACLU at your peril. Are you going to suggest this aggrieved student organization should not accept the ACLU's help?

C'mon Rhody, let's be intellectually honest here. You used the term "bash", I parenthetically added "criticize". And of course the group should use the ACLU. Just because I don't agree with the ACLU on everything--and when I don't, I "criticize" them--doesn't mean I think they should go away.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at November 22, 2006 8:01 AM

FIRE certainly doesn't need the ACLU legally, but their concurrance will help persuade an institution such as Brown that they indeed let the mask slip too far this time.

Posted by: rhodeymark at November 22, 2006 10:28 AM

I'm certainly no supporter of conservative evangelicalism, but let's face it: in order to preserve your own free speech, you sometimes have to defend the free speech of people who you don't agree with. I wish both sides of these debates at colleges would realize that - the "tyranny of political correctness" runs in both directions.

Posted by: Rhody at November 22, 2006 11:46 AM

While it has still not been explained why the group was denied to begin with, it's been announced in today's ProJo that Brown will restore the Reformed University Fellowship as an official campus religious group.

Posted by: SusanD at November 28, 2006 6:55 AM
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