The Problem with Disinvitations

A worrisome trend on campus which undermines viewpoint diversity and open inquiry is the push by some staff and faculty to pressure event organizers to disinvite speakers with whom they disagree.

Though these disinvitations happen most often around commencement time, notable speakers are seeing their invitations revoked more often during the regular school year as well. These disinvitations ensure that any dissent is silenced, which undermines the entire purpose of college. The University should be a place of debate and discussion around topics about which people do not necessarily agree; when these discussions happen, students are forced to defend their beliefs. This forces them to understand their beliefs and to grow intellectually in the process. But when speakers are disinvited, this dialogue never happens and students who would have been taken advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow are not able to.

Unfortunately, as we see in this article from The Algemeiner, students at the University of Texas at Austin once again added their school to the ever growing list of universities that have disinvited speakers by reneging on their invitation to Caroline Glick. Glick, a renowned American-Israeli writer, was scheduled to participate in a speaker series sponsored by Texans for Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee- UT Chapter. The announcement left many students angry, especially those students in pro-Palestine groups, because of her perceived belief in a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. These students not only voiced their concerns, but also petitioned the student government to remove the club’s room reservation, which the student government promptly did, leading to the cancellation of the event.

Students on both sides of the issue would have undoubtedly benefitted from hearing what Glick had to say and even more so from the discussion that would have followed her talk. Instead, a vocal minority of students decided that they did not want to be taken out of their comfort zone. When students push to disinvite speakers, they limit their own educational opportunities and the opportunities of their peers as well. Only through exposure to diverse viewpoints and perspectives can students truly learn how to think through their own ideas and become persuasive advocates for these ideas. Shutting down events to silence those with whom we disagree is not a form of persuasion, but is rather coercive censorship. We can all hope that students will learn to value intellectual diversity and open dialogue while they are on campus. The first step in this process will be for all campus stakeholders to stand up for the rights of invited speakers, no matter how many may disagree with their views.