Should the University of St. Thomas have allowed Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak on campus?
And, from a reputation point of view, what should St. Thomas do now? Change its mind?
University VP Doug Hennes, a longtime journalist who has done communications for St. Thomas for years (and, full disclosure, who edited the first story I ever wrote as a reporter), said the university is considering a forum “…to talk about the issues that have been raised so far…”
St. Thomas got a lot of flak for a 2005 speech by conservative shrieker Ann Coulter that president Dennis Dease later said “went far beyond the bounds of what is commonly accepted as civil discourse.”
My take — commonly accepted civil discourse is not what universities should be about. Students, and all of us, need to hear some outrageous discourse and dig in and figure out for themselves — ourselves — what’s outrageous and what’s well-founded. (Full disclosure again, I teach as an adjunct at St. Thomas.) College shouldn’t shelter students; it should provoke learning.
The forum Hennes mentions is a good idea — let’s talk about what kind of speech should be part of a university experience. But the forum idea would seem less tepid and defensive if St. Thomas hadn’t already said no thanks to a Nobel prize winner.
What do you think?