Emory's Gestapo · 05 November 2007

[The following is a letter to the editor written to the Emory Wheel by Harvey Klehr]

To the editor:

It was appropriate that President Wagner apologized to David Horowitz and expressed his concern that his talk at Emory was disrupted. It is also worth pondering, however, the broader implications and meaning of this event.

David Horowitz is only the latest in a string of conservative speakers who have been shouted down, disrupted or been harassed in the past decade at Emory. Ward Connerly has written that he was never treated as rudely anywhere in the United States as at Emory. Ralph Reed and Daniel Pipes faced threats and inexcusable rudeness. Horowitz’s group sponsored talks at numerous universities last week — Emory was the only place where one was unable to take place.

If a string of African-American, Jewish, female or Islamic speakers had been similarly treated, I suspect that administrative responses would have been louder, more concerned and come from more quarters. Faculty would be more indignant and students more vocal. All with good reason.

There are any number of speakers who appear at Emory with whose views I disapprove. There are speakers whom I have urged student groups not to invite to campus, including Khalid Muhammed and Rabbi Meir Kahane, both of whom were racists and hatemongers.

But once they were invited, the groups that wanted to hear them had a right to do so. When a speaker who had achieved notoriety by claiming that Jewish doctors had invented AIDS to kill Afro-Americans came to speak, those appalled by his visit attended his talk and asked him tough questions but did not disrupt his visit. Other speakers have generated protesters with signs outside the venue and hostile questions inside.

The thugs and hooligans who disrupted Horowitz’s speech do not belong on a university campus. If any Emory students were among them, they should be ashamed of themselves. The vast majority of those responsible appear to be from outside the Emory community. While it may have been impossible to remove or arrest them without violence, they should be identified and, as far as possible, prevented from coming to future events on campus.

And the administration, faculty and student body need to consider why only one type of speaker gets shouted down at Emory and what that says about the extent to which the University lives up to its professed values of free and courageous inquiry.

Harvey Klehr
Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Politics and History