Coulter Lecture Spurs Campus Controversy
Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 08:10
A heated dialogue is mounting on campus as students gear up for conservative commentator Ann Coulter's speech in Lohrfink Auditorium Thursday.
While students opposed to the event first expressed concern that the university would be paying $20,000 — Coulter's standard asking price — to secure the visit of the outspoken figure, Lecture Fund clarified that $1,000 will be allocated.
The Georgetown University College Republicans will pay the remainder of Coulter's negotiated $5,000 cost out of their gift fund, which does not include student fees.
Onni Irish (SFS '12), Lecture Fund's vice chair for external affairs, emphasized that the organization strives to remain objective in choosing speakers.
"We promote free exchange, and we are nonpartisan and that is extremely important to us," Irish said.
Still, some students have taken a stand, sayng the invitation to Coulter is at odds with Georgetown's ideals.
"I don't understand why, if we're a private religious institution, why we're supporting the visit of a woman who alienates a part of our student population," said Marissa Brogger (SFS '13), referring to Coulter's past comments that some have considered anti-Semitic. To protest Coulter's visit, Brogger created a Facebook page that had 176 attendees as of press time. She has previously contributed articles to The Hoya and wrote a viewpoint in today's issue, titled "Coulter's Words Defy Georgetown Values."
Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS '13), president of the College Democrats, echoed Brogger's disapproval of the public figure. "While we respect Ms. Coulter's right to free speech, we don't endorse her values, and we believe it is evident that the majority of the Georgetown community doesn't either," she said.
In the wake of 9/11, Coulter was let go from her role as contributing editor to the National Review Online after she made anti-Muslim and anti-Arab remarks. A fierce critic of liberals and mainstream media, she has also jabbed environmentalists for alleged exaggeration of global warming. And during the 2008 presidential race, she used an anti-gay slur to describe former presidential candidate John Edwards.
Reiterating the Lecture Fund's mission statement, Irish said that the organization approached Coulter's visit with a commitment to promoting on-campus dialogue in mind.
Part of Young America's Foundation's Reagan 100 Scholars Lecture Series, a project to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of President Ronald Reagan, Coulter's talk aims to foster a broader dialogue, according to the organizers of the event.
Chairman of the College Republicans Joseph Knowles (COL '12) stressed the merits of bringing a controversial figure to campus.
"I don't agree with everything that Ann Coulter says, but that's what it's about. It's about … engaging with the speakers, and maybe they'll respect what we think," he said.
Knowles also noted that the $10,000 speaker fee for Michael Moore, a liberal filmmaker and commentator who spoke on campus two weeks ago, came entirely from university funds. According to Knowles, the Reagan 100 Scholars includes speakers like Coulter from across the conservative spectrum.
"With Ann Coulter, we move outside of the actual political establishment to conservative media and punditry," Knowles said.
Thomas Lloyd, a staff writer for The Progressive, the College Democrats' online publication, said he didn't see the appeal of a speaker like Coulter.
"She is generally very offensive for the sake of being offensive," he said. "She's not an academic."
However, Lauren McDonald (MSB '14) was excited about her visit.
"I think it's nice to hear from someone who's so honest and also someone who brings some humor to the political talk," she said. "She just really tells it like it is, and I respect her for that."