Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Banning Politics at the College of St. Catherine

It's not often that I agree with Bay Buchanan. In fact, this might be the first time. But when she says that the College of St. Catherine administrators “are fools,” she is absolutely right. Buchanan was banned from speaking at the college because she is a supporter of John McCain. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Al Franken have also been banned from speaking at the college. (A highly deceptive email about the ban from the right-wing Young America's Foundation bizarrely claimed, "College of St. Catherine: Liberals Welcome, Conservatives Not.")

The College of St. Catherine declares that they are trying “in the political season to remain nonpartisan as an institution.” There are two ways to be nonpartisan: one is to allow people of all views to speak on campus; the other is to ban people of all views from speaking on campus. One nonpartisan approach is based on liberty; the other “nonpartisan” approach is based on repression.

Nor do the College of St. Catherine officials seem to understand that partisanship is a constant theme in our world. There is always another election around the corner, there is always partisan debate about policies. And the race for next presidential election begins on Nov. 5. So the world does not become less partisan the day after a major election. There is no reason why November 4th should be a magic date that removes partisanship from the world. Nor is it possible to escape politics. Every speaker brings the “danger” of having a political opinion, and “nonpartisan” colleges like St. Catherine would be obliged to have political censors on hand for every lecture in advance of an election to ensure that the speaker is quickly tackled and gagged before finishing a sentence that might be critical or supportive of a political position.

Colleges are precisely where we should have an open debate of ideas about politics. But that doesn't mean every single speaker must literally participate in a debate in order to be allowed to talk. Students are rational adults, capable of asking challenging questions of guest speakers and able to remember the arguments of speakers from the other side.

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