Here in the Twin Cities, conservatives have long been inured to the strange policy decisions made by liberal administrations colleges and universities in our community, but the University of St. Thomas may have surprised even the most resigned conservatives here. St. Thomas denied permission for a presentation by a young African-American woman to speak on abortion. Normally, this wouldn’t seem surprising for a Catholic university, but the woman wanted to speak out against abortion — and the university apparently believes that to violate its community standards:
Star Parker is a bestselling author who travels the country speaking to young audiences about the harmful impact of abortion, especially in minority communities. What better place than the University of St. Thomas — an urban, Catholic campus — for this dynamic African-American woman to bring her prolife message?
For almost two months, St. Thomas’ Students for Human Life organization looked forward to sponsoring Parker’s planned appearance on campus April 21. Her fee was to be split by the St. Thomas Standard, a conservative student newspaper, and the Young America’s Foundation, a Herndon, Va., group that brings conservative speakers and ideas to college campuses.
Students for Human Life applied to the university’s Student Life Committee for a campus site where Parker could speak. But the committee turned thumbs down. Star Parker, it seems, was not welcome at St. Thomas.
Katie Kieffer, an alumna who helped plan Parker’s visit, says that Vice President for Student Affairs Jane Canney, who oversees the committee, blocked the way. “She told me, ‘As long as I’m a vice president at St. Thomas, we will not deal with Young America’s Foundation,'” said Kieffer.
Why the hostility for YAF? The group brought Ann Coulter to their campus in 2005 — and the university still bears a grudge against YAF and Kieffer for it. The appearance caused plenty of dissent on campus, which spilled into premeditated disruptions of Coulter’s talk. Did university president Father Dennis Dease crack down on the provocateurs in his student body? Of course not. Instead, he launched a tirade directed at Coulter for criticizing Ted Kennedy and calling Barbara Boxer “learning disabled”.
Apparently, part of a Catholic university’s mission is teaching students how to hold a grudge. Not only did Dease and his administration declare Coulter persona non grata, but also every conservative speaker connected to the YAF in perpetuity.
Now, Coulter isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I’ve been very critical of her in the past. However, the notion that a university would ban all conservative speakers because they didn’t like Ann Coulter is akin to banning all liberals from speaking because of Ward Churchill’s “Little Eichmanns” remarks. It’s absurd. It’s even more offensive that Dease and Canney would insist on some sort of “speech code” for conservatives to sign prior to speaking on their campus.
Universities used to value intellectual diversity and debate. Catholic universities have a centuries-long tradition of this, in and out of the US, a diversity that includes staging “The Vagina Monologues” at Notre Dame, for example. Dease’s actions to stifle dissent at St. Thomas — and to demand the equivalent of a loyalty oath as a prerequisite to speak one’s mind — are not only un-Catholic, but also un-American and un-academic. He has turned St. Thomas into the Zimbabwe of American universities, most of which have already succumbed to a lesser extent to the stultifying grasp of political correctness.
All of this comes, as I have noted, because Dease and Canney feel that an appearance by a young woman speaking against abortion violates the mission of this Catholic university. If Dease and Canney truly believe that, then both need to find new careers, and the Catholic Church needs to reconsider St. Thomas and its entire administration.
Update: Never let it be said that I failed to listen to the Hot Air community. I replaced the front-page pic with one of Star Parker, but I failed to mention in this post that the two young women flanking Coulter in the original photo are Amie and Katie Kieffer. Amie has taken her older sister’s place on the St. Thomas conservative newspaper, and both have played an important part in this story.
Update II: Star Parker is 52? I had no idea. I thought she was much younger. I wouldn’t mind looking that young at 45, let alone 52.