Horowitz Speaks At Brown University · 22 October 2003

Filed under: Brown University

By Juliette Wallack--Brown Daily Herald, 10/23

Horowitz's lecture in Salomon attracted a crowd of 400 people and a heavy police presence.
"I have been dying to answer questions for two-and-a-half years, but no one would invite me," Horowitz said.

In spring 2001, Horowitz's anti-reparations advertisement appeared in The Herald, sparking a month of controversy that split the campus over issues of racism and free speech. He was invited by the College Republicans to speak then, but the offer was rescinded amid threats of violence.

During his 45-minute lecture, Horowitz touched on issues ranging from liberal bias on college campuses to the reparations debate.

But, he said, "I am not the divisive, inflammatory, racist force" that some make him out to be and, as a conservative, he is the "target of a campaign of vilification" that has "metastasized" at Brown.

"I am not a racist," he said. Rather, he said he feels "that the civil rights movement has gone astray in supporting racial preferences."

Horowitz began his lecture by describing the ideas behind his Academic Bill of Rights, which calls for universities to keep political views out of classrooms. Students around the country feel threatened by professors' liberal slants and are unable to express their conservative views, he said.

"Students can't get a good education if they're only telling you half the story," he said. And on campuses where liberal viewpoints are dominating, he said conservatives are afraid to speak out.

"There are always two sides to issues," he said, but at many colleges now, "there are not really two sides."

During the question-and-answer period, Brenda Allen, associate provost and director of institutional diversity, challenged Horowitz to follow through on that statement, and extended an invitation for Horowitz to come back to campus and debate his views with an opponent, such as Randall Robinson, whose writings ignited the reparations movement.

"It's something I've been thinking about for a while," Allen told The Herald after the lecture. She said that while Horowitz's lecture was a good way to get a conservative speaker on campus, there are few opportunities for students to hear from both ends of the political spectrum or to hear two different views on issues such as reparations.

In a lecture like last night's, "you have one point of view talking to an audience," she said.

Allen said she didn't agree with everything Horowitz told the audience, but "it was a good opportunity to listen to some things that were meant to be provocative." And, she said, though she would disagree with some of what Horowitz said throughout the lecture, there were a few things "where, in fact, we're not so far off."

Horowitz also told the audience he didn't understand why professors' political views are allowed to infiltrate lectures and lessons.

"Unfortunately, we live in a time when we can't trust our professors, all of them," he said.

After the lecture, President Ruth Simmons told The Herald she was particularly upset by the "gross generalities about Brown" that Horowitz made. She said she felt Horowitz particularly misrepresented the University's professors.

"Gross generalities about Brown do a great disservice," she said.

But Horowitz soon drifted to the question of reparations, the topic that divided the campus in spring 2001.

"I had no idea that 'ten reasons' was going to become what it did," Horowitz said.

"None of you knows what was motivating me to buy that ad," he said. Horowitz defended his position, saying that just because he opposes reparations does not make him racist.

"I have black people in my family," he said, and used his history as a civil rights activist since the late 1940s to defend himself against charges of racism.

The anti-reparations ad Horowitz purchased was titled "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery Is a Bad Idea - And Racist Too," and it appeared in over 20 college newspapers across the country. The Herald printed the ad on March 13, 2001.

The advertisement set off two debates - one over whether the content of the ad was racist and another over whether The Herald should have printed the ad in the first place.

After the quickly formed Coalition of Concerned Students stole the entire press run of the March 16, 2001 issue of The Herald, tempers flared, and the University became the staging ground for a national debate over free speech. The administration convened a Faculty Forum to debate the situation, but it did little to remedy the rifts caused by the ad. The conflict finally died down when students vacated campus for Spring Break.

Organizers of last night's lecture were concerned the tempers generated two-and-a-half years ago would reignite with Horowitz's arrival, and a heavy police presence indicated precautions were taken.

Things went well, said Joe Lisska '04, president of the College Republicans. With $1,500 given by the Undergraduate Finance Board, the College Republicans co-sponsored the lecture with Young America's Foundation, a national organization that promotes free speech on college campuses.

"The event went better than I even hoped," Lisska said. "I think this was exactly what the University needed."

But Simmons was less than pleased. "I was not happy," she told The Herald.

After the lecture, Simmons asked Horowitz for an apology for misrepresenting Brown. Horowitz told The Herald he apologized, and that Simmons accepted the apology.

Simmons said she realizes the questions Horowitz attempted to grapple with are "difficult," but she disagrees with his claims about the modern state of Africa and African Americans in the United States.

Both Simmons and members of the student body said they were impressed with how well students handled Horowitz, considering his history with the University.

"It's a really outstanding statement how well the students responded," said Rahim Kurji '05, president of the Undergraduate Council of Students.

Horowitz told the audience that the reception Brown students gave him was the most polite he's gotten from universities around the country.

"That makes a strong statement for us two-and-a-half years later," Kurji said.

Veer Bhavnagri '05 said he went into the lecture worried about how Brown students would react to Horowitz.

"I expected going in that Horowitz would be able to explain himself, and I was worried that the Brown community would not let him do that," Bhavnagri said. But students let Horowitz speak and, in one case, even "shushed" a female audience member who tried to disrupt the lecture, he said.

Bhavnagri said he felt Horowitz was able to explain himself, but many of the questions students lobbed at him during an hour-long question-and-answer period were "sort of out of the blue and not really relevant."

Horowitz refused to answer questions asking for his views about the Patriot Act and affirmative action, responding that students would ideally be able to turn to their professors for the conservative viewpoint on those issues.

"I'm not a library," he said.

But, Bhavnagri said, "I don't think you can really argue with him. He's against reparations, and I think most people are against slave reparations, whether or not his reasoning was valid or not."

After the lecture, Horowitz said he felt it went "well, except for the end," when a time crunch forced moderator and Dean of the College Paul Armstrong to ask for all remaining questions at once.