A conservative Harvard University professor has been disinvited from giving a talk at Canada’s Concordia University, because of his traditional views on gender.
Harvey Mansfield had been invited by Concordia to deliver the university’s spring commencement address to its Liberal Arts College. The address was to coincide with the university’s 40th anniversary celebration in May. Mansfield is a professor of great books and Western thought, and has been teaching at Harvard for 50 years.
But then the university abruptly rescinded its invitation. In a letter, Principal Mark Russell told Mansfield that Concordia faculty and staff regretted they "were unable to reach consensus as to what we wanted to achieve with this event." Russell claimed that the selection committee "acted in good faith but rather precipitously" when it invited Mansfield to deliver the address in the first place.
According to Mansfield, however, that was not the real reason for the disinvitation.
“What had taken place,” Mansfield wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Sunday, “I learned but not from him, was a faculty meeting prompted by a letter from 12 alumni that demanded a reversal of the committee's invitation because my ‘scholarly and public corpus … heavily traffics in damaging and discredited philosophies of gender and culture.’”
“Promoting ‘the primacy of masculinity,’” Mansfield continued, “apparently a reference to my book ‘Manliness,’ attracted their ire. Though I was to speak on great books, not gender, this ‘trafficking’—as if in harmful drugs—disqualified me without any need to specify further. Such sloppy, inaccurate accusation was enough to move a covey of professors to flutter in alarm.”
Mansfield also admitted that the snub was not necessarily unexpected.
"The invitation was a surprise, and the rejection less of one, because I am a white male conservative professor," wrote Mansfield.
In an email, Russell had written, "We heard from many that they would not attend the event because they objected to the views he has expressed publicly on women and homosexuals .... A majority of LAC faculty decided it was best NOT to have Professor Mansfield give the keynote address at the College's reunion since it is intended to be a time of celebration and unity."
Not all Concordia alumni agreed with the university’s decision, however.
In a letter addressed to alumni, Julie Amblard, president of the college's alumni society, Frederick Krantz, the co-founder of the college, and current Concordia professor Eric Buzzetti criticized the decision to disinvite Mansfield.
"We are saddened that some alumni of the (Liberal Arts College) thought it appropriate to attempt to silence a scholar with whose views they happen to disagree," their letter read. "We are also saddened that their attempt was successful."
Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University, also spoke out against the university.
“Now this. This is insanity. Harvey Mansfield is one of the most accomplished scholars and eminent teachers of political philosophy in the world,” George wrote in a tweet.
Buzzetti said the scheduled events celebrating the school's 40th anniversary might be postponed to the fall semester, or they may not happen at all.
"I hope something will happen," Buzzetti said. "But it is a bit difficult to organize something and then turn your back on a speaker. It will certainly not happen in May."