A new article has come out about Indiana University’s refusal to fund a Tom Woods speech on campus. The piece is extremely critical of the YAL group there, essentially charging the students with misrepresenting the situation. Meanwhile, the lectures board which rejected Woods is lauded as a model of fairness and order — despite the fact that it is that very board which has now changed its story in a dramatic and revealing fashion (first Woods was lacking “sufficient academic credibility,” but now the problem is that the YAL group plans things too well).
Group needs talking-to about bias
by Mike Leonard
It’s a favorite and well-worn tactic of the far right to complain that they’re abused minorities on college campuses and the hypocritical left is denying them their rights.
These are folks who come from the same ideological tree that touts majority rule when they find themselves in the majority. The same people who opposed civil rights in the 1960s and continue to show themselves as hostile to programs for racial and ethnic minorities. People who label pleas for fair treatment of gays and lesbians as preferential treatment.
They’re at it again on the Indiana University campus, and you have to give them credit in the same way you admire mice for trying to become rats.
The issue this time is how IU and the Indiana Memorial Union Board are trying to keep a conservative firebrand from speaking on campus.
It’s a canard.
Last fall, the IU Young Americans for Liberty approached Union Board and asked the group to sponsor a speech by Thomas E. Woods Jr., a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Ala. Never heard of it? You’re not the Lone Ranger.
It wasn’t a “how can we work together to bring in this speaker?” kind of request. It was a “give us $4,000 or we’ll scream bloody murder that you’re a bunch of leftist elitists” deal.
The Union Board lectures director at the time checked in at the economics department, got the “cuckoo-cuckoo” whistle from a faculty member and dismissed the arrogant demand, probably a bit too tersely, by saying Woods lacked “sufficient academic credibility.”
And so the YALs complained to the news media and scored a “IU doesn’t (heart) conservatives” splash.
The YALs came back at Union Board this semester, after a new board of directors had been seated, and made the same request for money to bring in Woods. They were rejected again. But this time, the Union Board students spoke slowly and clearly and still, the YALs didn’t get it, or didn’t want to.
YAL member Margaret Marrow complained to The Herald-Times, repeating what the previous lectures director had said, which isn’t applicable now. “IU previously spent $45,000 to bring John Edwards, a disgraced liberal politician, to speak on campus, but refused Woods a speaking opportunity despite his more reasonable speaker’s fee of $4,000.”
Woods may be a friend of Fox News, but he has never been a U.S. senator or serious contender to become president of the United States. And neither IU nor Union Board refused Woods a speaking opportunity. Union Board simply declined to throw money at a program that was already planned.
“We told them we were very willing to work with them, but Union Board is a programming board, and we work with organizations from the ground up in the planning and execution of events,” current lectures director Erika Hall said last week. “We’re not here to just hand out checks.
“They had already negotiated with an agent and booked everything and had everything set up,” she said. “They weren’t willing to work with us and go at this thing hand-in-hand. They were really taking this edge that we’re biased, and our response was, no, that’s not it. But they refused to accept that.”
YAL President Samuel Spaiser confirmed that on Friday. “The fact that they said we were too prepared, that just seems a little bit ridiculous to me,” he said. “They seemed really genuine and friendly, and a lot of people said they had no issues politically. Many people stressed it was not an issue of political philosophy. But their argument felt very superficial, I will say that.”
Transparency is superficial? Who writes these people’s talking points, Karl Rove?
The Union Board Lectures committee includes about 10 volunteers and can include anyone from campus, even YAL members. When a proposal comes to them, they analyze it: Does it fit Union Board’s mission statement? Is it a timely event? Will it be of interest to students and/or the community?
If the idea meets muster, it goes to the entire body of about 20 Union Board directors. They go over the proposal, ask many of the same questions, and vote on it. If it passes, then it goes back to the Lectures committee, which works on every aspect of the planning and execution of the event.
“There is a professional development aspect to being on Union Board. That’s why we’re here,” Hall explained. “Committee members get hands-on experience in booking venues and finding the right people to contact and seeing if we have the technology in place and the room set up. All of those kinds of things. We are absolutely willing to work with any campus group to do a project, but doing the project is how members learn.
“We explained that over and over,” she said. “It’s not ideology. It’s the aspects of programming. If another group came in with everything planned out and done and all they wanted was a monetary contribution, we’d say the same thing.”
Spaiser derides the Union Board decision on a national Campus Reform Web site, where, wouldn’t you know it, other campus far-right groups are using the same tactics to ambush student groups and universities with false claims of ideological bias.
“I felt like they thought if they kept pushing the media aspect, we’d give in,” Hall said. “We don’t make special exceptions. We are a programming board. And this is how things have worked at Union Board for 101 years now.”Published in