Jannique Stewart is a pro-life speaker who received an invitation in January to speak about abortion—from a pro-life perspective—at an event the Cornell University Political Union (CPU) was going to hold in April. The CPU holds itself out as “a diverse group of undergraduates passionate about politics, active on campus, dedicated to elevating minority voices, and committed to finding common ground by engaging in respectful discussion and debate.”
On March 23, Ms. Stewart posted that she had received a phone call from someone at the CPU disinviting her because of what she calls her “outspoken beliefs regarding biblical sexuality,” meaning that sexual activity should be reserved for marriage, and that marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman. She alleges she was told that allowing someone like her to speak on campus was “tantamount to allowing a racist to speak who held pro-slavery and pro-holocaust views.”
That’s when things got interesting.
The CPU denies disinviting her because of her religious beliefs about sex and marriage. It alleges that it was concerned about security costs of bringing a conservative speaker to campus, and that the issue was discussed with Ms. Stewart. But Stewart says the security issue was discussed in a general way back in January, but not in the conversation where she was disinvited.
Then a Cornell sophomore, Brendan Dodd, resigned as CPU’s Vice President of Finance, and in a letter to Cornell’s student newspaper, The Cornell Daily Sun, pretty much backs Ms. Stewart’s version of the disinvitation, with the exception that he never heard anyone likening Ms. Stewart’s beliefs to promoting slavery or denying the Holocaust.
Where does the university stand on all this? Joel M. Malina, Vice President for University Relations at Cornell issued a statement distancing the Administration from the actions of the CPU:
“As we have frequently noted, free speech is an essential part of Cornell University’s commitment to the discovery of truth, and the University’s leadership is resolute in upholding the principle of freedom of expression on our campuses.
“Recently, we learned that an independent, student-run organization, the Cornell Political Union, had already decided to rescind an invitation to a speaker for an event on our Ithaca campus. They made this decision without engaging with the administration on event planning or security. The University in no way requested or suggested that any guest be excluded from attending this campus event, and to date we have made no recommendation related to potential university costs associated with supporting the event.”
What we are left with, then, is a tale of how a student group, formed for the very purpose of engaging with controversial ideas, decided to bail on an invited speaker not because her topic was too controversial, but because her religious views on an unrelated issue were. And they weren’t even honest enough to come clean when called on it, but made up an entirely different story.
Since a member of CPU’s own executive committee blew the whistle on its bigoted actions, the group’s attempt at a cover-up is all the more pathetic.
Perhaps these students will, by the time they graduate, have a better appreciation for the values their organization, and their university, espouse.