The triumph of "multicultural" thugs

By David Horowitz


Salon Staff
May 26, 2001 12:00PM (UTC)

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If David Horowitz had actually attended Ann Coulter's lecture at Cornell University on April 30, he might have been able to present a more accurate account of it. As it is, his May 21 column is full of inaccuracies, half-truths, spinning and historical revision.

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The headline refers to a "physical assault on Ann Coulter." There was no such thing. One male, a former student, tried to approach the speaker during a loud, heated debate but was stopped by students and the one Cornell police officer on the scene. He later apologized for his action.

To say that Cornell is "one of the most segregated institutions in the United States" is absurd. What measure is Mr. Horowitz using to come to that conclusion? Cornell does not harbor "all-black dorms," and his description of the scholarship at Cornell's Africana Studies and Research Center is a caricature based on old stereotypes.

Mr. Horowitz laments that conservatives have no voice at Cornell. Does he believe these recent invited speakers have moved leftward: William F. Buckley Jr., Michel Camdessus, F.W. de Klerk, Nat Hentoff, Bob Zelnick and Harold Bloom?

The Coulter speech at Cornell, like Mr. Horowitz's recent tactic of submitting an inflammatory ad to student editors at campus newspapers, was designed to outrage students in minority groups. "The Real Meaning of the Confederate Flag," the topic of Coulter's presentation, is hardly a front-burner issue on this campus. Fliers depicting the Confederate flag were strategically distributed the night before the event. On the morning of her speech, students living in Ujamaa Residential College (whose residents come from various ethnic backgrounds) left their building to find disturbing messages scrawled on the sidewalk outside their campus home. These messages included "Remove Ujamaa," "Remove Africana" and "Stop Racism: Tear Down Ujamaa Now." Members of the Cornell Review, who cosponsored the Coulter speech, admitted doing the chalkings.

In addition, the sponsors of the lecture failed to register with the campus Events Management Planning Team, as required by long-standing university procedures; thus, the administration was unaware of the program. A member of the College Republicans called Cornell police shortly before the program began and asked that an officer "walk by" the lecture. This indicates that the sponsoring groups expected to get a strong reaction to Coulter's speech, but they did not want university officials to know about it in advance so that administrators could be present to ensure that order prevailed.

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Mr. Horowitz even mocks attempts by universities across the nation to exercise controls during impassioned debates among students. One wonders whether he'd like nothing more than an injured conservative to prove his point. Indeed, a cynical person might believe that everything about the Coulter speech at Cornell -- from its topic to the provocative chalkings outside a student residence hall to the neglect of university procedures -- was calculated to generate exactly the response that would allow conservative pundits to continue to bash Cornell for its perceived sins.

Cornell does not condone the heckling and tossing of fruit to which Coulter was subjected. Indeed, we condemn it. The overwhelming majority of students in the audience were well-behaved, even those who disagreed with Coulter's statements. Unfortunately, several individuals, both students and local community members, were not. Many students on both sides helped to calm the audience when tensions mounted. Coulter completed her speech and was escorted out of the lecture hall by one campus police officer, a university official belatedly summoned and several students.

Cornell President Hunter Rawlings issued a call for civil discourse on campus in 1997 that is still applicable today: "Cornell University stands for reasoned thought, sustained discussion, constructive engagement and freedom with responsibility, not for abhorrent and abusive speech ... Civil discourse requires thoughtfulness, and an academic community values enlightenment."

Ann Coulter is welcome to return to Cornell to discuss the conservative ideals she values. The students who sponsor her have an obligation to work within accepted university procedures. Students who attend may disagree with her, but should not react to provocative statements with abusive treatment of university guests. Both sides must work together to present a debate that inspires rational thought, not emotional response.

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-- Henrik N. Dullea
Vice President for University Relations
Cornell University


Salon Staff

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