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Gettysburg Refuses to Block Controversial Speaker

May 3, 2017
 
 

Gettysburg College is refusing calls to bar Robert Spencer (at right) from speaking there tonight. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch, which he says promotes information about Islam but that many critics say promotes an incorrect view that Islam is a violent religion and that Muslim terrorists represent the faith in general. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls him "one of America’s most prolific and vociferous anti-Muslim propagandists."

Spencer was invited by the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom.

Hundreds of alumni wrote to the college asking that it call off the appearance. "As equity-seeking, socially and politically conscious citizens and alumni of Gettysburg College, we are outraged by your willingness to allow a platform for the ideas zealously promoted by Mr. Spencer. The ideas promoted by Spencer and his organization, Jihad Watch, have and will continue to incite physical, mental and emotional violence against Muslims as long as they are allowed legitimate platforms," says the letter, published in The Gettysburgian, the student newspaper.

Janet Morgan Riggs, president of the college, released a letter in which she announced that another speaker would appear on campus to offer a view of Islam different from Spencer's. Further, she said that the Spencer appearance would be restricted to those with a Gettysburg affiliation and that backpacks would be barred. But she said he would be allowed to speak. Riggs cited the college's freedom of expression policy, which states, "Gettysburg College subscribes to the wisdom in the words of Justice Louis D. Brandeis: 'If there be a time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.'"

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