Statement | Cancel Culture

Cornell University Invites Ann Coulter for a Return Engagement

March 14, 2024

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) commends Cornell University Provost Michael Kotlikoff for his decision to reinvite Ann Coulter (Cornell ’84) to speak at the university on April 16. Ms. Coulter previously gave a lecture on campus in November 2022, but was repeatedly disrupted by student protesters.

While some of those involved in shouting down Ms. Coulter were reportedly disciplined, it is critical that the university demonstrate its unwillingness to allow such an egregious offense against its mission to stand. In the words of Provost Kotlikoff, “Cornell must be a place where the presentation of ideas is protected and inviolable. Shielding students or others in our community from viewpoints with which they disagree, or filtering campus speakers based on the content of their presentation, undermines the fundamental role of a university.”

While shouting Ms. Coulter down, one protester yelled, “Your words are violence!” But words are the opposite of violence, and the university is one of the great gifts of human civilization precisely because it is a place where we are free to persuade one another without the threat of force. The protesters did not resort to violence, but they demonstrated their disregard for this valuable gift when they forced Ms. Coulter from the podium. As she said in an exclusive statement to ACTA, “at the better schools . . . students have too much intellectual self-respect to scream and carry on. They want to beat you in Q&A.” But the protesters at Cornell chose to embarrass themselves and their school while violating the rights of Ms. Coulter and their fellow Cornell community members. The university is correct to right this wrong.

But now members of the Cornell community are accusing the administration of hypocrisy because it has cracked down on protesters who have disrupted campus spaces in violation of the university’s policies. These critics apparently fail to see the consistency in refusing to accept the disruption of campus events and spaces where students study and learn. Both are defenses of the fundamental purpose of the university.

Moreover, while Cornell faculty and staff—many of whom never said a word in defense of Ms. Coulter but have been greatly concerned about protecting a colleague who found a terrorist attack “exhilarating”—are protesting for academic freedom and free speech, one of them has begged Provost Kotlikoff in a letter to the editor of the Cornell Daily Sun to disinvite Ms. Coulter. Are the students at Cornell really so fragile? Ms. Coulter is known for making statements that many find offensive, but if a professor who sympathizes with Hamas still has a job, then surely Cornellians can tolerate having a provocative conservative on campus for an hour or two.

Cornell must show both its campus community and the country that it can and will respect diversity of thought and freedom of speech. We agree wholeheartedly with Provost Kotlikoff: “there could be few more powerful demonstrations of Cornell’s commitment to free expression than to have Ms. Coulter return to campus and present her views.”


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