Virginia Tech is totally cool with free speech, just so long as it doesn’t come from a black conservative who might offend the delicate sensibilities of cloistered campus progressives.
Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley says he was disinvited from speaking at Virginia Tech due to “concerns” among faculty members about topics raised in his book, “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.”
And how did Virginia Tech respond to claims that it disinvited a black conservative from speaking on campus? University officials claim that Riley couldn’t be disinvited because he was never invited to speak in the first place. That’s right: Virginia Tech’s response to the charge of specifically blacklisting a prominent minority voice is that it’s impossible because the school wouldn’t dare ask a black conservative to address the school’s faculty or students.
Riley pushed back against the university’s statement, explaining that Douglas Patterson, a finance professor at the university, sent him a written invitation in April which included an offer to pay for Riley’s expenses and to provide an honorarium for his time.
Jason Riley (@jasonrileywsj) May 4, 2016
Jason Riley (@jasonrileywsj) May 4, 2016
“I don’t buy this line that I wasn’t invited,” Riley told The Roanoke Times. “Based on my understanding of the English language it sounded like an invitation to me.”
Last week, Patterson wrote an e-mail to Riley explaining that other faculty members were reluctant to allow Riley to speak. Why? Patterson told Riley that faculty nixed Riley’s appearance because they were “worried about more protests” from campus progressives.
“[They] are worried about more protests from the looney left if you [Riley] were to give the lecture,” Patterson reportedly wrote in an email to Riley.
“I explained that if we allow ourselves to be intimidated by these people they win, and we lose,” Patterson wrote, according to Riley. “It was no use arguing, their minds were made up. Fear of a possible protest is more important than free speech or the values that a university is supposed to stand for.”
In a column published by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Riley wrote while this was his first time being disinvited from speaking on a college campus, his experience isn’t unprecedented:
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been approached by conservative students after a lecture to a mostly liberal audience and thanked, almost surreptitiously, for coming to speak. They often offer an explanation for their relative silence during question periods when liberal students and faculty are firing away. ‘Being too outspoken would just make it more difficult,’ a Wellesley student once told me. ‘You get to leave when you’re done. We have to live with these people until we graduate.’
In April, I spoke at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where the college Republicans who invited me took the precaution of clearing my name with liberal student groups ‘to make sure they wouldn’t be upset.’
We’ve reached a point where conservatives must have their campus speakers preapproved by left-wing pressure groups. If progressives aren’t already in absolute control of academia, they’re pretty close.
Virginia Tech’s move to ban Riley from speaking on campus occurs just weeks after the invitation of another conservative speaker prompted outrage among students and liberal groups within the community.
This isn’t the first time campus leftists demanded a heckler’s veto over who can and can’t speak on the taxpayer-funded campus. In March, progressives not only demanded that scholar Charles Murray not be allowed to speak, the university went out of his way to slur Murray in an open letter. Patterson, the professor who invited Riley to speak, said the Virginia Tech president’s gratuitous swipe at Murray was “a cheap smear of a prominent scholar.”
Despite the outcry, Murray, who is white, was eventually allowed by campus officials to speak on campus in March. According to Virginia Tech statistics, two out of every three students on campus are white. While roughly 20 percent of Virginia’s overall population is black, a mere 4 percent of Virginia Tech students are black, according to university enrollment data.