A nationwide “free speech” tour of colleges was starting its circuit at American University on Thursday – but the event needed to happen off campus. The organizers blame the institution, which said that a facility was never properly booked.
Spiked, a British magazine that writes about contemporary issues from a libertarian perspective, was due to launch its “Unsafe Space” college tour at American, with the discussion on Thursday involving Title IX, feminism and censorship on campuses.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is the federal law prohibiting discrimination based on gender.
Spiked had planned for representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, Reason magazine, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) to speak on campus. But said in a statement, it said it was “met [with] resistance” by college administrators. Instead, the panel was moved and planned to be held at Reason's D.C. headquarters.
A coordinator with the tour, Tom Slater, claims that the students hosting the event had reserved a space, but last minute were told that it was no longer available and then that the event would be called off.
The university disagrees.
Mark Story, an American spokesman, said that the student group – the college chapter of Young Americans for Liberty – had requested space Sept. 19, but it was told it needed to meet with the student activities office since it wanted to bring speakers.
Nothing was ever officially reserved, though the free speech tour was still advertised to be held in the university’s Katzen Arts Center. Story said that the student activities office did “outreach” to the group.
“But it is too late for this to happen in the appropriate timeframe to obtain other space on campus,” Story wrote in an email.
Slater said in his statement it was “a shame” American could not accommodate the group, even though Title IX is a contentious topic.
“That the first stop on the Unsafe Space Tour was seemingly deemed too unsafe to hold on a campus has only reminded us what we are up against,” his statement reads.
Outside speakers and organizations, like conservative firebrands Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter, have clashed with colleges before, claiming they have attempted to squash free speech and deliberately tried to sabotage their attempts to address campus.