Catholics, Blacks, and Transgenders at the University of St. Thomas

Jason Mattera

4/14/2008 12:01:04 AM - Jason Mattera

Campus liberals are unaccustomed to hearing conservative ideas in their echo chambers, so it’s not uncommon for them to become discomforted when hearing alternative opinions.

Take Jane Canney, the vice president of student affairs at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, as an example. This administrator is depriving students the ability to hear Star Parker, a prominent conservative black speaker, because Canney was bothered by what another conservative had said at St. Thomas more than two years ago. On April 21, Star Parker was slated to deliver a talk on how abortion has devastated minority communities—a topic that seemed like a no-brainer at a Catholic university and the largest private college in Minnesota.

The conservative campus organizers only needed advertising space and a room to host Parker, as Young America’s Foundation and Conservative Student News Inc. were covering all the other costs.

Jane Canney nixed the idea entirely, citing “concerns” that the lecture was being underwritten by Young America’s Foundation. “As long as I am a vice president at St. Thomas, the Young America’s Foundation will not be allowed on campus,” Canney fumed in a recent meeting she had with Katie Kieffer, an alumna of St. Thomas and founder of the St. Thomas Standard as well as Conservative Student News Inc. Canney didn’t return the Foundation’s phone calls seeking comment.

Canney’s hostility toward Young America’s Foundation originated two years ago when YAF sponsored Ann Coulter at St. Thomas—an event attracting more than 750 students. Canney claimed she felt “uncomfortable” and “disturbed” while listening to Coulter, adding that she will never allow another Foundation-sponsored speaker on campus again.

So let’s get this straight: Just because some students and some administrators claimed to have been offended by what one conservative speaker warrants blocking an entire campus population from hearing conservative viewpoints? Such guilt-by-association is unbecoming of a college administrator. Moreover, this type of anti-intellectualism is an embarrassment to a school whose namesake reflects one of the greatest thinkers in civilization.

Young America’s Foundation sponsors more than 500 lectures annually featuring a wide variety of the very best in the Conservative Movement, including John Ashcroft, Michelle Malkin, Dinesh D’Souza, Sean Hannity, Bay Buchanan, Ann Coulter, and many others.

Liberals speakers at St. Thomas receive full support from the school’s administration. Within the past year, Canney’s Student Life Committee approved the appearances of Al Franken, the bombastic liberal commentator, and Debra Davis, a transgendered activist who believes God is a black lesbian.

Katie Kieffer called Canney out on her duplicity: “As an alumna of St. Thomas, I am embarrassed that the vice president of student affairs, Jane Canney, makes key decisions based on impulse and feelings. I am embarrassed that a vice president at this Catholic institution is making it virtually impossible for conservatives to bring conservative speakers to campus. For a person in charge of Campus Life on a Catholic campus, she seems closed to our efforts to present conservative and Catholic pro-life values.”

Jane Canney is violating the school’s speaker policy. The policy states that decisions to invite speakers are governed by “fairness and equity toward various conflicting views and interests, being mindful of the needs for wider information on the part of students and the larger community…Another factor governing speakers on campus is our concern that a wide variety of issues and viewpoints be given expression.”

She’s also violating her school’s expressed convictions, including “intellectual inquiry,” “faith and reason,” “the pursuit of truth,” “diversity,” and “meaningful dialogue.”

“[Star Parker is] enthusiastic about educating young people about abortion’s demoralizing effects, ideas which are in complete alignment with St. Thomas’ stated positions and Catholic teachings. Based on her behavior, Jane Canney seems unduly hostile toward conservative values,” adds Kieffer. “St. Thomas’ commitment to diversity and intellectual inquiry appears threadbare at best.”

Here’s an idea: Let’s treat college students like adults they are and allow them to hear a variety of speakers and form their own conclusions

It’s not the first time St. Thomas featured an unhinged administrator. On April 18, 2005, the university’s president, Father Dennis Dease, accused Ann Coulter of “vulgarizing” his campus even though Father Dease wasn’t present for the lecture and failed to enumerate any of Coulter’s “offensive” remarks. Father Dease’s ire should’ve been directed at the leftist hecklers who interrupted Coulter’s speech by yelling expletives at her.

Jane Canney and Father Dease can be contacted at jwcanney@stthomas.edu and djdease@stthomas.edu.