Don’t Pardon Student Protestors at Horowitz · 07 November 2007

By Benjamin Clark - Emory Wheel
Filed under: Press Coverage

I’ve been talking to a lot of people around campus recently about what happened at David Horowitz’s lecture, and in the process I have noticed many disturbing trends. A staggering number of people draw a distinction between the “disruptive” protestors at the event, who they identify as being from outside Emory, and “non-disruptive” protestors, a group which included Emory students that stood but remained silent through the lecture.

My problem with this distinction lies in what I believe is a misconception of the legal rights individuals have on a private campus, as well as a desire to focus only on the outside protestors at the event instead of giving a fair amount of blame to those within the University who should have known better and have disgraced us all with their ignorance and impunity.

I would also like to respond to a few other claims that I have come across in the past week.

No, the Emory College Republicans did not allow the protestors in simply to gain more attention for ourselves — why would we then have gone through the trouble of requesting security and respectfully asking protestors to stand in the back of the auditorium? Why would we have worked with members of the Emory administration to make sure that the situation did not escalate, and why would Horowitz have left when the protestors were becoming more disruptive and more agitated by the minute?

Nor can the College Republicans be blamed for not allowing appropriate opposition to be heard. There were plenty of acceptable ways of showing disagreement with Horowitz while still allowing students unsure of his message the opportunity to hear it firsthand. Students were encouraged by outside groups to wear orange as a reference to the prisoners in Guantánamo Bay (I’m still trying to figure how that ties into Horowitz’s speech), and those who didn’t were provided with orange ribbons to show support for “critical thinking.”

When we admitted protestors — both those from inside the University and outside — with signs on their backs or large posters or banners, our only request was that they sit in the back so as not to disturb the event for others. This simple courtesy was hastily and uniformly ignored.

The number of individuals who complain that there was not an “appropriate” question and answer session to follow the event has also baffled us. Our reasoning behind having students fill out question cards was based on the fear that providing an open microphone would allow one or more individuals to manipulate the entire discussion rather than allow multiple voices to be heard. Based on what happened, I would say these fears were well-founded.

Furthermore, it makes no sense for them to complain about our chosen format for the evening when we are the ones hosting the event, and they have already decided to ignore the rules we have set out.

Finally, if any member of the Emory community has doubts about the severity of the situation or the number of students involved in this protest, I encourage you to watch the footage of the event on YouTube. Horowitz came prepared to give his speech and told me before he left that he wanted to have the chance to continue.

I am continually shocked at the number of students on campus who trust their own omnipotence to the point where they actively try to block out any and all opposing views. I am likewise shocked and chagrined by the number of students who in doing so would actively disobey a direct order from an Emory administrator requesting that they cease disrupting the event or risk being removed from the hall. Although those from outside the University outnumbered the initial number of student protestors, the number of students was far from negligible. By the end of the event, about half the protestors — if not more — were students.

However, as disgusted as I am with these student protestors, I am very grateful to the support we have received from the administration, and especially University President James W. Wagner. Both Senior Vice President for Campus Life John Ford and Senior Vice Provost Ozzie Harris were in attendance and both did all they could to help College Republicans through this crisis.

Furthermore, I applaud the members and leadership of the Muslim Student Association, who chose to behave in a responsible, respectful manner, and in the process have earned a great deal of well-deserved respect from the Emory community.

Benjamin Clark is a College senior from Norcross, Ga. He is the chairman of the Emory College Republicans.