Rutgers University recently faced this by inviting Condoleezza Rice and refused to budge. But Brandeis University has just knuckled under to student and faculty protests over its announced speaker, author Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She was disinvited.
You'd think a human rights advocate would be cheered by these liberals. You'd think they'd positively swoon at a human rights advocate for women! But, no. She is a conservative.
The Muslim students and their "allies" didn't want to hear anything Ali had to say about honor killings or female gender mutilation. Explaining why 86 faculty members signed a demand the invitation be revoked, professor Bernadette Brooten offered an empty justification: Non-Muslims commit violence, too.
"We stressed that we recognize the harm of female genital cutting, forced marriages, and honor killings, but that this selection obscures the violence against women than happens among non-Muslims." Brandeis then announced Ali was a "compelling" women's advocate, "but we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University's core values. For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier."
Aha. Past statements. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education rightfully declared that a Brandeis "core value" is hypocrisy: "Archbishop Desmond Tutu received an honorary degree from the university in spite of earlier comments comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and stating that Zionism has many parallels with racism. Dr. Alan Guttmacher received an honorary degree in 1970 despite having served as vice-president of the American Eugenics Society."
Then there is the radical gay playwright Tony Kushner, honored by Brandeis at the 2006 commencement. Here is Kushner's opinion of God, as spoken by a Mormon statue in his play "Angels in America": "God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly, then plunges a huge filthy hand in. He grabs hold of your bloody tubes. You might slip to evade His grasp, but He squeezes hard, He insists. He pulls and pulls, till all your innards are yanked out. And the pain ... can't even talk about it. And then He stuffs it back. Dirty, tangled, torn. It's up to you to do the stitching."
God is a monster. But that was just dandy for Brandeis.
It gets even worse for Catholics. Kushner infamously trashed Pope John Paul II in The Nation magazine after the Matthew Shepard murder as a "homicidal liar." He denounced Catholic bishops as "mitred, chasubled and coped Pilates,'' and other church leaders as "flagellants" and "fanatics." In response to the pope's call for civil dialogue, Kushner wrote that he would first ask the pontiff not to "beat my brains out with a pistol butt and leave me to die by the side of the road.''
Where were Brooten and her 85 colleagues then? Had Kushner said any of this about an ayatollah, he'd be finished. But it was said about Catholics, so it earned him an honorary degree.
In a statement of rebuttal, Ali said she accepted the commencement invitation months ago due to its history: "It was founded in 1948, in the wake of World War II and the Holocaust, as a co-educational, nonsectarian university at a time when many American universities still imposed rigid admission quotas on Jewish students."
But what "was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming. Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles."
Bingo. Now let's wait for the famous Brandeis faculty, past and present, to speak out. What say you, Robert Reich? And how about you, Anita Hill? A black woman has been silenced.