ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

Bowling for Dollars

April 24, 2005 by ACTA

Last fall, filmmaker and political provocateur Michael Moore was invited to speak at Cal State San Marcos—and then he was disinvited. The reason given by CSUSM president Karen Hynes was that the school was forbidden by law to devote state funds to politically partisan activity; in the absence of adequate time to schedule a speaker whose views would balance Moore's, San Marcos administrators decided it would be unwise to allow Moore to appear as scheduled. Moore spoke anyhow, after outraged students raised the $45,000 needed to bring him to speak at a fairgrounds off campus; he drew a crowd of 10,000 people, among them Joan Baez, who sang, and a number of protesters.

At his talk, Moore vowed to use the proceeds of his appearance to establish a "hellraiser" scholarship for Cal State San Marcos students who defy the administration. Now he has made good on his promise. The Michael Moore Freedom of Speech Scholarship will award $2500 annually to two students "who have done the most to fight for issues of student rights by standing up to the administration." Applicants must be enrolled at Cal State San Marcos and must have at least a 2.5 grade point average. Applications are due May 11, and awards for the coming school year will be announced in June.

"I hope this scholarship will encourage students to show courage and stand up for what they believe in," Moore stated in a press release posted on his website. "It's not easy to take on the establishment, but when students do so for the right reasons, they should be rewarded. ... At a time when the media and politicians have shown a lack of courage, we should look to America's universities and America's young people to show us how patriotic dissent is. The University should not be a place for fear, but a place for bravery, free thought, and a little bit of rebellion."

At his talk, Moore engaged in the Bush-bashing for which he is known. But he also welcomed the Republicans who attended (and who protested outside the fairgrounds). According to an article that appeared in the North County Times, Moore "said it did not matter why people were there Tuesday—in fact, he said, he welcomed the Republicans who showed up to disagree—as long as they were going to get involved and vote." Moore now has an opportunity to put his money where his mouth is by administering his scholarship in the true spirit of the free and open expression it aims to support. That would mean, theoretically, funding the odd conservative or religious student who has worked to secure the expressive and associative rights that such students often struggle to preserve. Will he do that? When the awards are announced in June, it will be worth noting who gets them—and who does not.

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