Target: Fordham President, Father Joseph M. McShane, S.J.
Goal: Support university president’s disagreement with controversial campus visitor
A recent invitation by Fordham University’s College Republicans to controversial conservative political commentator Ann Coulter has stirred up something of a storm among the Fordham community. Among those expressing distress at the proposed campus visitor is Father Joseph M. McShane, S.J., a Jesuit priest and president of Fordham University. A recent letter by Fr. McShane detailed his concerns in a respectful yet forceful manner. While Ms. Coulter’s visit has been canceled, the president’s handling of the situation deserves to be recognized. Support Fr. McShane in his vocal dissent over Ms. Coulter’s appearance.
In a letter describing his concerns over Ms. Coulter’s visit, Fr. McShane describes her rhetoric as “hateful and needlessly provocative…aimed squarely at the darker side of our nature.” One does not need to look far to confirm the president’s words—during the recent cycle of presidential debates, Ms. Coulter tweeted that President Obama was acting like a ‘retard,’ clearly an inflammatory and offensive usage of the word. Fr. McShane noted that there are many other qualified individuals who could “speak to the conservative point of view with integrity and conviction.”
The president’s letter reminded the Fordham community of several incidents that took place last spring, after which Fr. McShane himself pledged contempt for those who intentionally inflict pain on others due to race, gender, sexual orientation, or creed. Any form of hate speech or incivility, Fr. McShane writes, stands in direct opposition to the Jesuit values that have guided Fordham. Clearly, Fr. McShane sees Ms. Coulter’s appearance as threatening to rekindle such seeds of hatred.
Yet, Fr. McShane also expresses his acknowledgement of the importance of free expression and speech. In his letter, the president said he would not prohibit Ms. Coulter’s appearance as such an act would “do greater violence to the academy, and to the Jesuit tradition of fearless and robust engagement.” Rather, Fr. McShane encourages all members of the Fordham community and beyond “to voice their opposition, civilly and respectfully, and forcefully.”
Stand with Fr. McShane in his respectful disapproval of Ms. Coulter’s views and his devout upholding of academic and Jesuit standards.
Dear Fr. McShane,
The recent controversy at Fordham University over the proposed appearance of Ann Coulter has been resolved with the cancellation of Ms. Coulter’s visit. Yet, I still write to express my support to you in your handling of the situation.
In your letter to the Fordham University community, you forcefully expressed your disdain for Ms. Coulter’s “hateful and needlessly provocative” rhetoric. Staying true to the Jesuit tradition, you noted the importance of treating one another with compassion and civility, of not discriminating against anyone due to race, gender, sexual orientation, or creed. Your words stood in direct contrast to the opinions so often expressed by Ms. Coulter and call the Fordham community to a higher standard, whether conservative or liberal.
Yet, also in tune with Jesuit values, you allowed Ms. Coulter’s appearance to go ahead unabated, realizing that to prohibit such an event would be to ignore the Jesuit and academy tradition of “fearless and robust engagement.” Your call to all members of the community to “voice their opposition, civilly and respectfully, and forcefully” was the right advice—and it in turned led to the cancellation of Ms. Coulter’s visit.
Thank you for your tactful, respectful, and courageous response to this situation. Your actions speak to the high standards of both the Jesuit tradition and the values expected at an institution of higher education.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Kristine Paulus via Flickr