Pomona College Invites Angela Davis as Featured Speaker for Family Weekend · 09 January 2007

Editor's note: We received permission to print the following email exchange from the parent of a Pomona College student who was upset to learn that Angela Davis would be a featured speaker at Family Weekend at the University.  The exchange follows below:President Oxtoby,

I wrote to you on this topic from my home PC,  but I am not sure that my message went through.

My wife and I are U Chicago alums, BA78,  and our daughter Ingrid Vidal is a freshman and very happy.  We are a bit disappointed that she didi not choose U Chicago,  but Pomona has an excellent track record of academic achievement,  and her freshman classes look very much like the Core Curriculum at Chicago

But Angela Davis as the featured speaker?  She may be a tenured professor,  but she is a Communist militant,  with no track record of repentance.  Her latest book advocates the abolition of prisons.

What are you thinking?  Please respond,  because I will not support my daughter to attend an institution that glorifies Communism.

Crescat scientia vita excolatur!

Eduardo Vidal
Scarsdale,  New York

Dear Mr. Vidal:

Your message was the first knowledge I had of this particular invitation, although I should say that many invitations go out from different departments and programs (often to speakers who are controversial in one way or another) to speak on campus.  Part of the goal of a Pomona education is to challenge our students with different points of view, whether it is inviting John Yoo to speak about Iraq (as happened a couple of years ago) or, in this case, Angela Davis.

As far a making this particular talk a “featured speaker” on Family Weekend, that would not have been my own personal choice.  However, in the spirit of encouraging free inquiry on all subjects (very much consistent with our shared University of Chicago of Chicago background), my view is that the invitation should stand, and those who disagree with her views should either attend and ask questions or bypass the event for other activities.  In any case, this invitation does not represent a “glorification” of Communism by Pomona College College.

Thanks for writing; I am glad that Ingrid is having a good experience here.

David Oxtoby

President Oxtoby,

No,  featuring John Yoo is not the same.  He is a professor of law at U Cal-Berkeley,  and before that was appointed by a duly elected President (regardless of what we might think of Dubya personally) to a job in the federal government of a democratic republic.  He is well within the range of civilized discourse. 

I bet that Pomona College would not feature David Duke,  the Klansman from Louisiana.  He does not hold a tenured professorship,  but he could tell us about the Holocaust-denial conference he attended last month in Persia.  And I bet that you would not feature Martin Heidegger,  if he were still alive,  or any other academic apologist for pagan German National Socialism,  even though Heidegger was a distinguished professor of philosophy.  And rightly so,  because neither Duke nor Heidegger are within the range of civilized discourse. 

To feature Angela Davis as a speaker at Family Weekend is to show contempt and disdain for the very values and principles that make the existence of an institution like Pomona College possible,  and for the parents who work and save (in the capital markets) to pay for a college education for their children.  What could an unrepentant Communist have to say about "Civil Rights and Human Rights" to any civilized audience?  (For a liberal,  center-left perspective on this topic,  you would have done better with Professor Geoff Stone of U Chicago Law School.) 

Featuring Angela Davis is like featuring a dinosaur from Jurassic Park.  There are hardly any Communist countries left,  except for North Korea and Cuba (where I grew up to 9 years old),  which are not exactly paradises for workers and peasants.  China and Vietnam have both given up Communism,  sort of.  Russia is returning to its old Czarist government,  and the Russian people are committing collective suicide.  Look at their demographics.  Nearly a century of atheist Communism is taking its toll. 

Communism is a god that failed.  It is an evil ideology and an evil system of government,  and,  as another Californian observed,  the Soviet Union was an evil empire.  Judeo-Christian revelation,  so reviled by atheist Communism,  reminds us that the return on investment in evil is death.  I am sorry to see Pomona College take the path of institutional death. Good luck!

Eduardo Vidal
Scarsdale,  New York