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Show Tolerance for Angela Davis

Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, describes springtime as “disinvitation season” for speakers at American universities. The New York Times reports:

A week before she was to speak at the Smith College commencement, Christine Lagarde, chief of the International Monetary Fund, has withdrawn from the event, citing protests against her and the fund, the college said Monday.

Her withdrawal comes after Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, withdrew from speaking at the Rutgers University commencement in the face of protests against her role in Bush administration foreign policy, and weeks after Brandeis University rescinded its invitation to the rights advocate Ayaan Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree at its commencement, after protests over her anti-Islam statements.

Perhaps coincidentally, the three disinvited speakers cited by the Times were all women who can fairly be considered pioneers in their area of endeavor.

While it is unclear whether a visit to the College by such figures would provoke an outcry, we can be certain that respectful tolerance (and even enthusiasm) will be shown this week for celebrated 1960’s radical and Communist Party member Angela Davis, who famously provided the guns used by Jonathan Jackson in a hostage taking that led to four deaths in 1970.

Angela Davis Comp.jpg

One of the speakers bureaus that represents Davis described her as follows:

Professor Davis’ teaching career has taken her to San Francisco State University, Mills College, and UC Berkeley. She also has taught at UCLA, Vassar, the Claremont Colleges, and Stanford University. She spent the last fifteen years at the University of California Santa Cruz where she is now Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness, an interdisciplinary Ph.D program, and of Feminist Studies.

Like many other educators, Professor Davis is especially concerned with the general tendency to devote more resources and attention to the prison system than to educational institutions. Having helped to popularize the notion of a “prison industrial complex,” she now urges her audiences to think seriously about the future possibility of a world without prisons and to help forge a 21st century abolitionist movement.

English Professor Jeffrey Hart offered a description of Davis in the Daily News in 1989 that was somewhat more textured.

Davis is no stranger to the Dartmouth campus. She spoke in Hanover in 1989 (for a fee reported to be $10,000), and again 1994. No word on her charge this time around, but her speakers bureau informs me that her standard rate is $20,000 per speech, plus first class travel and accommodation.

Addendum: The event is being put on by the College’s Center for Gender and Student Engagement, which, until recently, was directed by Kyle Ashlee. He distinguished himself by publishing — only three days after he left his position — a diatribe purporting to describe student life at the College. The account was filled with gross and evident errors of fact, evident at least to students in Hanover. Readers removed from the College will only recoil in disgust at his words and at Dartmouth.

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