The disruption of Ann Coulter’s speech and her subsequent deplatforming at Cornell University on November 9, 2022, is just the latest sign that diversity of thought is unwelcome on its campus. Cornell says it is committed to open inquiry and free expression, but, in reality, it suffers from a self-imposed monoculture that encourages self-censorship and conformity. The appropriate response to controversial speech is more speech, not disruptions and shoutdowns that prevent people from sharing their ideas.
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) reached out to Ms. Coulter for her reaction to the incident. Her statement is printed in its entirety below. As she says, Cornell needs to recognize that the disruption of her speech is an attack on its very nature as a university and a violation of its promise to all Cornellians to provide a place where ideas can be freely and openly explored. Not just Ann Coulter, but other Cornellians have been wronged by these students’ actions, and the university itself has been embarrassed. ACTA has sent a letter to President Martha Pollack and Cornell’s Board of Trustees, urging the university to expel the students involved in accordance with Cornell’s Student Code of Conduct. The administration must send a clear and immediate message that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated. University leaders should also take further steps, as outlined in ACTA’s Gold Standard for Freedom of Expression, to build a truly free and intellectually diverse campus worthy of Cornell’s great reputation. ACTA has launched an initiative at Cornell to encourage them to do so.
Statement by Ann Coulter:
In nearly 20 years of college speeches, I’ve never been prevented from speaking at any Ivy League school, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and—until now—Cornell. Even at Berkeley, where I spoke in 2019, despite several thousand Antifa protesters, the anti-free speech fascists weren’t students at the school.
At the better schools, you see, students have too much intellectual self-respect to scream and carry on. They want to beat you in Q&A.
In fact, two of my most controversial speeches ever (at the students’ request) were at Cornell—one on the Confederate flag and one on abortion. I did more than an hour of Q&A at both speeches, plus another hour afterward specifically with students who disagreed with me. (BLSA students and pro-choicers). A good time was had by all!
Last week’s speech was about the previous night’s election that had been a disaster for Republicans. The Left should have had a ball! But they couldn’t even listen to that, or merely stay away and allow others to listen.
It’s really amazing and dispiriting how things have changedat my beloved alma mater.
The students who prevented me from speaking were not engaging in fiery argument, or any kind of argument at all, but the most anti-intellectual response imaginable: whoopie cushions, screaming, and loud circus music—mocking the very purpose of a university.
And this behavior was enabled by Cornell.
The interruptions came one at a time, with each one causing a five-minute break in the proceedings, as we all waited for a college administrator to walk down the aisle and shuffle across to the student—whoopie cushion still blaring—in order to issue a “first warning.” Only if that specific student did it again would he be asked to leave.
Obviously, this tepid and time-consuming procedure merely encouraged the others. So, one after another, the interruptions continued until it became clear that it would not end. And it never will end, unless Cornell expels the students who wasted everyone’s time and prevented my speech. Odd, how sublimely confident they were that there would be no consequences for their actions.
People had driven for hours to attend my speech. Liberal students had come to hear what I had to say. Instead, Cornell treated the audience to more than 20 minutes of farting noises and screaming.
Unless Cornell expels the disrupters and demands that they pay for the speech they prevented, students have been given the green light to shut down any speech, waste everyone’s time and money, and make a joke of free speech at this allegedly world-class university.
But so far, nearly a week later, the best Cornell can do is say, “Cornell students among the disrupters will be referred for conduct violations.” Either you believe in free speech, or you don’t. Another “warning” or apology or “note on the student’s file” says, loud and clear, that you don’t.