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Too Much Safety is a Dangerous Thing

Rob Tisinai

March 13th, 2014

I went to grad school at Stanford and I am appalled that the university has decided to protect its students from anti-gay speech.

Is appalled the right word? “to fill or overcome with horror, consternation, or fear; dismay

Yes, that’s the word.  Apparently this happened:

Last Wednesday evening, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) denied funding for an event hosted by the Stanford Anscombe Society (SAS) following community outcry over alleged “anti-LGBT” content.

SAS’s April conference, titled “Communicating Values,” has a two-fold purpose, according to SAS president Judith Romea ’14, between educating attendees on the public policy issues surrounding marriage and family and exploring how media, entertainment and technology can be used to better facilitate the communication underlying marriage and the family.

SAS had sought $600 in honoraria funds from the GSC for conference speakers. However, members of GradQ, the queer graduate student organization, criticized the speaker list–which included Robert Lopez, Kellie Fiedorek and Ryan Anderson–as inappropriately controversial.

Okay, that’s not the appalling part. Some speakers get funded and some speakers don’t. No, the appalling part is why.

Bringing the speakers to Stanford would threaten the safety of campus for the queer population, according to Brianne Huntsman ’15, who started a Facebook event to organize a rally at the GSC meeting on Wednesday night.

“A lot of students who are queer come to Stanford because it’s one of the most LGBT-friendly places in the world,” Huntsman said. “I grew up in Utah, where it was really conservative and a lot of us come from similar backgrounds, and we feel that we every time we go home. Stanford is supposed to be a safe space for us.”

I am so flipped out that I have to get my mockery out of the way before I can give a measured response.

Oh, I’m sorry, Brianne, did you apply to one of the world’s great universities just so you could have your own precious thoughts reinforced? Is disagreement enough to make you feel unsafe?

Are you longing for the queer equivalent of Liberty Baptist or Bob Jones University, places where frightened evangelicals send their kids to avoid dissenting voices? Are you longing for a world-class education in a place where you never have to defend your views, where you never have to pick apart a deeply flawed argument and tear it to shreds?

Are you under the impression that the university as a “safe space” means anything except a safe space for vigorous and rigorous disagreement and discourse? Are you hoping to enter a diverse and discordant world without having to practice the critical thinking you’ll need to make a change?

When you hear, “Ideas are dangerous,” do you shout an exultant Yes! with a fist in the air, or do you take it as a signal to protect yourself and others from improper thoughts? 

In case you’re wondering, that started as sarcasm and ended as a growl.

I can rephrase this with more equanimity using two quotes. First, this from Thomas Jefferson:

For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.

I believe that completely. I believe it rationally, and I believe it with all my heart. I believe it because I have to.

And this from William Butler Yeats:

Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.

The purpose of a great education is not to fill you with appropriate ideas. It’s to bring you into the battle for truth, to arm you, and to sharpen your skills. Now, I don’t know who Kellie Fiedorek is, and Robert Lopez is, frankly, an idiot — or at least so consumed by his own demons that he can’t think clearly. But Ryan Anderson is co-author of What is Marriage? with tenured Princeton professor Robert George. It’s an ill-reasoned piece of crap, but an ill-reasoned piece of crap that showed up in Supreme Court Justice Alito’s Windsor dissent.

I shredded that thing (in my humble opinion) and I did it because I wanted to, because I loved doing it. I did it because I got an education that didn’t just fill me like a bucket. It lit me like a fire. It prepared me to deal with dangerous ideas and maybe offer a few of my own. That’s what Brianne Huntsman and her friends need. Ryan Anderson ought to be welcome to speak at the school, not because his influential ideas are safe, but precisely because they’re not.

Comments

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jutta
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Are those numbers “14”,”15″ the age of the students? I thought Stanford was a university.

Ken R
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

jutta, I believe ’14 and ’15 refer to their graduating class. ’14 = Class of 2014.

Mark Miner
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Well said, Rob.
I’m hoping to be up there.
—Mark

Hunter
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

I’m on your side of this, Rob. Aside from the fact that I’ve never had much sympathy for the PC left, which strikes me as just as rigidly ideological and authoritarian as the far right, I want people like Lopez, et al., to be able to get up in public and voice their nastiness as much as possible — all they do is turn decent people off to their ideas, which is a plus.

Ben M
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Kellie Fiedore an ADF lawyer. I believe she runs around lying to governments about the evils of marriage equality. She was also a big name in the AZ bill.

TXRuss
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Way to go, Rob. Free speech means free speech for everyone, not just the people we like to hear. And your response to the silliness of Brianne’s complaint is right on target.

Brilliant job. Have you thought of sending this as a letter to the editor of the Stanford Daily?

Ben
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Wondering what kind of articles one would write if this were instead David Duke and crew being denied funding.

GLBT are not safe in the US, regardless of legal progress having been made. I read of new gay bashings stateside on a near daily basis, so this idea we not only need to make room, but should not appose disgusting homophobes a platform to spread their hate and lies is ridiculous.

Totally disagree with you Rob, 100%. Students have every right to foment what they want the college to spend money on. And anti gay hate has no place getting money from a public institution, and to argue it lessens actual education is laughable.

Stephen
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

The pity is that the organizers simply invited professional gay-bashers. I think the students were correct to become indignant. What was done in the face of public indignation and even scorn is the issue. Surely it’s the organizers who shut it down?

Events like this give credibility to people like Ryan Anderson. Just as the OUP publishing Maggie Gallagher gave her credibility. If this were to be a discussion about the perils of the Jewish Banking Conspiracy I don’t think there’d be any doubt. I don’t see a difference.

I tried to contact the organizers to offer my own humble services as some small counterbalance. Since I’m a writer whose work people actually pay to enjoy my reputation is at least as substantial as a think-tanker like Anderson. Plus I’m gay and married: I am the peril. But I heard nothing. Not surprising I know. But had this nonsense been better framed to begin with tempers might not have got so frayed.

Lucrece
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

I just wish the people who protested the speakers didn’t have these bullshit reasons for doing so.

The whole “safe space” progressive narrative is a catch all for driving people out of a discourse.

I do agree that they have no place in the university, not because they are dangerous, but because the premise in a university is to bring serious speakers whose arguments are based on proper research and sound scientific thinking.

Rob Tisinai
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Ben and Stephen, if David Duke’s preferred policies were in effect in over half the 50 states, and if his writings were being cited in Supreme Court dissents, then I certainly do hope there’d be open and frank debate over their views at universities.

Also, Jutta, the “15” refers to the student’s graduation year.

Rick2L
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

You usually seem so measured and thoughtful, but I obviously don’t understand this article because 1. “to tolerate” and “to combat” are mutually exclusive terms. You can do one or the other but not both at once, 2. Is Brianne expressing her personal opinion? If so, you destroy your own point. “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.” This is a nice saying, but education is education. Fire consumes and water quenches – not a meaningful comparison, 3. Having been to college myself I think its a waste of energy to spend my outrage on the foolish and ill-considered blatherings of some kid still maturing when the likes of Brian Fisher, and Scott Lively pose real danger. I could go on (something about ill-reasoned crap) but I don’t feel like it.

Erp
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

As far as I know the conference is still on; it just isn’t being funded by the student government. Students can still pay their $15 (by Mar. 18 or $30 after, $20 and then $40 for the general public).

The conference is aimed at the true believers and to give them tools, not in engaging with those who vehemently disagree with them.

“Our aim is to help university students and young adults to promote the values of marriage, family, and sexual integrity to the broader popular culture. Featuring speakers at the forefront of this effort, the conference will allow students to network with other individuals who are willing to engage in intellectual and civil discourse about the issues of marriage, family, and sexual integrity.”
http://www.stanfordanscombe.org/communicating-values-marriage-family–the-media-conference.html
and the tentative schedule is at
http://www.stanfordanscombe.org/conference-schedule.html

The arguments on safe haven are invalid but the student councils (one grad and one undergrad) are, I think, right in not funding them. If the talk(s) were addressing students who disagreed or were neutral as well as those who agreed, then funding becomes more debatable.

Jim Burroway
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

A truly valuable liberal education includes exposure to ideas and arguments that are abhorrent as well as enlightened. Living in a protected bubble does nothing to sharpen the mind or life skills generally, but merely coddles an adolescence beyond its shelf life.

That said, I think the council would have been within its rights to pass judgement on the speakers credentials. If so, I can envision their denying an honoraria for, say Oscar Lopez, who is neither an academic nor all that prominent. Kellie Fiedore, I don’t know, so I can’t say.

But to deny an honoraria to Ryan Anderson, who clearly carries weight with members of the U.S. Supreme Court, in the name of protecting students delicate sensitivities is — to use Rob’s word — appalling. And it makes Stanford look less like an academic institution that values a free exchange of ideas, and more like a propaganda mill that only tolerates some debates but not others.

Timothy Kincaid
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Everything you said, Rob! Including the growl.

Jay
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

I am on the side of the students and am APPALLED that you are defending the bigots. This is not about free speech. The bigots are not prevented from speaking. And surely all of us, even students at Stanford, have been exposed to their hateful speech. However, student fees do not have to be used to provide a platform for them.

I suppose you think that Holocaust deniers or the KuKluxKlan should receive funding to spread their ideas at Stanford? Oh, I see. Just anti-gay bigots should be given such opportunities. Perhaps you can apply for a job with Ezra Klein’s Vox. I hear they like gay apologists for anti-gay bigots there.

Rob Tisinai
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Rick2L:

1. Of course you can tolerate an idea while combatting it. That’s the very essence of debate.

2. I don’t understand what you’re saying with this point.

3. You must have missed the part where Ryan’s work was cited by a Supreme Court justice, something Lively and Fischer cannot claim. Also, as an employee of the Heritage Foundation, Ryan has much greater institutional backing than either of those two men.

Rob Tisinai
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Jay, again, if Holocaust denial or the KKK were the dominant force in more than half the states in the US, then I certainly do hope universities would be sponsoring vigorous debate over them.

Ben in Oakland
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

The answer to bad speech is not suppression, but more speech.

SharonB
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Yeah, I am not so interested in giving Nazis, segregationists, flat-earthers, supremacists or gay-bashers a platform.

Have a debate, sure, but a platform, unopposed? Nope!

Priya Lynn
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Rob said “Ben and Stephen, if David Duke’s preferred policies were in effect in over half the 50 states, and if his writings were being cited in Supreme Court dissents, then I certainly do hope there’d be open and frank debate over their views at universities.”

I’m not with you on this one Rob. I’m sick of the double standard so many gays have where they consider racism unacceptable but being anti-gay is somehow not in the same category. And I certainly disagree that the relative popularity of bigoted views somehow makes expressing them more acceptable or tolerable.

Religiously motivated bigotry isn’t in a different category than non-religious bigotry. Religious beliefs aren’t owed extra consideration or tolerance. Religion doesn’t deserve to be put on some sort of pedestal. It’s just as appropriate to hold anti-gay people in contempt as it is to hold racists in contempt.

Rob Tisinai
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Priya, with that statement I wasn’t setting different standards for racial and anti-gay bigotry. To the contrary, I was applying the same standard to each.

And certainly there was nothing in my post about privileging bigotry that is religiously motivated (and I’m sure you’ve read enough of my recent posts to know I oppose doing so anyway).

Rob Tisinai
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

SharonB, “debate” isn’t just two people facing off against each other on a stage. If anything, that’s the shallowest form of debate, one the privileges debating skill over truth.

“Debate” in this context is something that goes on over months, years, and longer. Each side presents its own arguments and responds to those of its opponents. Sometimes those responses don’t come on the same day–in fact, the best, most substantive responses often do not.

Priya Lynn
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

If a university wouldn’t invite a holocaust denier, neo-nazi, or memmber of the KKK to speak they’ve got no business inviting people to speak who would deny equality to gays and lesbians

Rob Tisinai
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Priya, I’ll direct you back to my statement that you quoted in your first comment.

Steve
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

While worrying about people’s “safety” is of course hyperbole, inviting people with an opposing opinion for its own sake is ridiculous. It’s just controversy for the sake of controversy. Consequences be damned. The same BS the media pulls in with their silly attempts at false equivalency.

Steve
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

And stop it with the infantile “free speech” nonsense already. Free speech means that the government won’t throw you in jail. That’s pretty much it. It doesn’t mean that you are entitled to a platform or that you can demand that everyone invites you to their events.

Timothy Kincaid
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

I can speak from experience on this.

Many years ago I was on the board of my college’s student government. One of the reasons I got involved was that it previously had been run by students with a particular political bent who denied funding to groups they didn’t favor and tried to obstruct events that didn’t align with their goals.

A coalition of fraternities, dorm residents, athletes, and student groups formed a political alliance and ousted the group that had been in power.

I became the chair of the committee that allocated student fees for campus group programming. I am very proud of the fact that we did not treat them the way they had treated others.

Yes, we funded the things that had not been funded and we supported greek and dorm and sports events. But we also funded and supported (and I attended) events that were not reflective of the views of our administration.

We held to the principle that student fees were paid by all students, not just the ones who got to vote, and that if there was student interest in a speaker or a viewpoint, then those students were entitled to have the funds they paid used in a way that reflects their views.

Now maybe there could have been exceptions, I suppose. But different viewpoints – even wrong viewpoints – are not reason to deny funding to a group.

I’ve been on the wrong side of discrimination and I don’t like it. I don’t like it when it’s directed towards gay people and I don’t like it when it’s directed toward anti-gay people.

I guess the way I look at it is this, I’d rather win through the power of my principles and the conviction of my argument than to win by destroying those whom I label my enemy.

Ben In Oakland
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Thank you, Timothy.

Maurice Lacunza
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Aarrgh! Growl! True. Well done good sir.

Ben M
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Rob – I also was horrified that the school would prevent this… until i actually read the linked article Abbs found out the event is still going on, something your piece never mentioned. After finding that out, this reads as a screed against a few students who you disagree with. Way out of proportion.

Ben M
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

The GradQ group as lo offered to cosponsore a future event.

Also it appears several groups (NOM included) had already agreed to fund this conference.

Ben M
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Ugh, my phone has bad auto correct, please forgive my typos.

Ben M
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Timothy Kincaid – I generally agree with your comments on funding, but I read that this event was not open to the general student body for free. In my time on student government that wasa big driver of who got funded.

Rob Tisinai
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Ben M, as I wrote above, my dismay is not that the event wasn’t funded, but at the reasons for not funding it.

Michael
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

The bigots have Fox News, Rush, Liberty U, Free Republic, the Republican Party, GOProud, rightwing Churches, and a thousand other outlets. The bigots don’t need Stanford as a platform to “educate” anyone as to the quality of their rhetoric.

Tell you this, Mr. Tisinai. When I want to know what the Log Cabin Republicans have to say about anything, I’ll go to their website. I don’t need to read it here.

Rob Tisinai
March 14th, 2014 | LINK

Tell you this, Mr. Tisinai. When I want to know what the Log Cabin Republicans have to say about anything, I’ll go to their website. I don’t need to read it here.

Sorry, Michael, didn’t realize you owned the website and only wanted to read pieces that you approve of. Now that you’ve taken it over, you might want to post a list of acceptable and unacceptable thoughts.

Hue-Man
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

As with all rants, I hope you feel better!

If the gay-haters want to propagandize, they are welcome to rent premises from the catholic church or the KKK chapter. Associating hate groups with a college is not in the best interest of the college, its students or its graduates. Colleges are under no obligation to provide facilities for ALL speakers – several million demands for halls would quickly disabuse you of this notion.

Given that the college and its various organizations must make choices, I will go with the supporting their choices. In this case, it’s a no-brainer; those poor, helpless, timid, reasonable gay-haters need to hit the catholic church, the mormon church, and their good friends in Uganda and Russia for funds (or wait for their next performance opportunity to spew hate on CNN, Fox News, etc.).

Ryan
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Rob, are you claiming that roughly 50% of the country believes that gay men are predators who enslave children and pregnant mothers, as Lopez does? Call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s true. So from where I’m standing, comparing that man to David Duke or Holocaust deniers is completely apt. No respectable school should have a man like that speak on their property, and students have every right to protest, even if some (or maybe even one) get a little overboard with the “this should be a safe space” talk.
Also, I’m not sure how you came to the conclusion that the reason this group was denied funding was merely because Brianne Huntsman didn’t feel safe.

Stephen
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

You’re no doubt sick of this by now, Rob (and I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you) but I’m puzzled by your ‘David Dukes 50 states’ statements. I don’t understand. I pointed out that if this particular bunfight was about combatting the International Jewish Banking Conspiracy instead of the Gay Marriage Conspiracy the university itself would have intervened to stop it. That didn’t happen here. The promoters of this nonsense shut it down – if indeed it is shut down – not the students. The students, correctly, protested. And it’s not an absurd idea to expect the college to which one’s parents are donating their pension fund provide one with a place that doesn’t assault you. Or that students who managed the jailbreak from Utah (read the statistics on young men killing themselves) shouldn’t find the worst of their home state dragged into a place they expect – rightly – to be exempt of such hateful folly.

I’m not an American by birth though I do live in the States and find the obsession with what is known here as ‘freedom of speech’ puzzling. Like ‘gun rights’ it seems to be a flag that’s run up every morning that we’re supposed to salute without wondering why or what it represents. Clearly this was intended to be a propaganda outreach by NOM, political by design. We’re not discussing the Oxford Union. No ‘debate’ was intended. If it were they would have dragged in that poor man whose name escapes me; the one who wrote the thing with Gallagher; he seems to spend a good deal of time ‘debating’ Ryan Anderson. This has nothing to do with free speech and I don’t think it advisable to spend energy defending Mr Anderson’s resume. Stripped of its obfuscations it’s merely ‘God hates fags and so do I’. What drives his obsession, apart from mortgage payments on his DC condo, is beyond me.

To re-cap: not disagreeing; not sure what your point is; indignation is never a good starting point; last time I looked college students tend to be young and shouldn’t we be grateful they’re not pulling up cobblestones?; while I don’t always agree I always value what I find here at BTB; regarding the Anderson person, you might want to read today’s history posting as it perfectly exemplifies his point of view.

And lastly: many thanks. Your postings here are always interesting.

Rob Tisinai
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Ryan, I don’t know where you got the idea that I think Robert Lopez is a reputable thinker or Brianne Huntsman should have no right to protest. Neither of those are in my piece.

Ryan
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Well, I didn’t say you thought either of those things, so I guess we’re even?

What I did say was, you said comparisons to letting this group speak to letting David Duke or Holocaust deniers speak were wrong because David Duke’s preferred polices weren’t in effect in over half of US states.
And neither are Lopez’s. So why is that comparison wrong? Why would any reputable school in America allow that man near a podium?
And again, how do you know why funding was denied?

Rob Tisinai
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Ryan, when I referred to the preferred policies in effect in over 50 states, and the indisputable influence on at least one Supreme Court justice, I was talking about Anderson.

Ryan
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Well, it looks to me that they come as a group in this instance. Kind of like if David Duke were speaking with a educated conservative who was against affirmative action. Perfectly appropriate reason to deny funding, if you ask me. And since we don’t know why they denied funding, that seems like a pretty reasonable theory.

Rob Tisinai
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Ryan, I’m relying on the article for my inferences about why the funding was denied. I would be thrilled if there are other issues in that decision beside the ones referenced in the article, and even more thrilled to discover that Brianne Huntsman is isolated in her reasoning though frankly the response to this post sadly suggests she is not.

Ryan
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

I’m honestly dumbfounded that you don’t think “Robert Lopez is a vile, gay hating turd” was the reason. I mean, really a pull quote from a random student is all that you’re basing this on.

John
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

The post is very disappointing, and so are some of the justifications for it in the comments. I find it particularly disturbing that you somehow think that if those who deny the Holocaust were able to pass amendments in 30 states, they should be able to hold forums in leading universities, but apparently shouldn’t if they can’t. Not only is that illogical and silly, it is pernicious. You also refer to encouraging debate, but what was proposed for student funding at Stanford was no debate. The organizers wanted student fees to fund their bigotry. That has nothing to do with free speech, nor would it be good policy for Stanford.

The Supreme Court ruled on a similar situation a few years ago when a Christian law group wanted funding from California public universities even though they banned gay students from holding leadership roles. The Court said that the university was free to refuse funding because the group violated its ban of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This situation is a little different in that it is not the university that wants to ban this event–indeed the event will take place–but the principle that students should not have to fund propaganda efforts by bigots is the same.

When we see Liberty University and Bob Jones University and Notre Dame funding gay events and speakers on behalf of equal rights, perhaps your indignation over the denial of funding for NOM’s propaganda event might be worth taking seriously.

Rob Tisinai
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

John, I don’t understand what silly and illogical about what I said. The principle is pretty straightforward: ideas that govern the laws of the majority of the population and that are showing up in Supreme Court decisions should be discussed at the university level, especially if they are controversial and damaging, and they should certainly be prioritized over ideas that are not relevant or being widely applied in that way. Seems both sensible and logical to me.

Steve
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Very good point. Religious schools have the right to do whatever they want and discriminate against whoever they want. Yet secular schools apparently can’t have their own values and need to accommodate everyone else. Because in America religious beliefs are untouchable, but secular beliefs are worth less than shit.

Rob Tisinai
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Steve, a different way of looking at it is that (some) religious schools are severely limited and do their students a disservice by only allowing voices that reinforce their orthodoxy, while high-caliber secular schools are vastly better precisely because they don’t impose such limitations.

John
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Rob said in response to my saying that it is silly and illogical to say that Holocaust Deniers should be allowed to spread propaganda at Stanford if they had succeeded in getting amendments passed in 30 states: “The principle is pretty straightforward: ideas that govern the laws of the majority of the population and that are showing up in Supreme Court decisions should be discussed at the university level.”

NO ONE who is criticizing your post thinks that various ideas about marriage equality and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or homosexuality should not be discussed at the university level!

What we are objecting to is your belief that students at Stanford should pay for a propaganda forum for the National Organization for Marriage and other hate groups.

All of us are in favor of discussion and debate. What was proposed was not a DEBATE. It was that Stanford students should help fund a forum for bigots to spout anti-gay ideas.

Why are you trying to misrepresent this controversy and attempt to make it appear that those of us who oppose student funding for anti-gay propaganda are opposed to discussion and debate. That is simply untrue and it is disappointing that you continue to characterize the controversy in such terms.

To repeat what others have said: no one is objecting to the event itself, only to the funding of it by Stanford student fees.

Marcus
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

@John: Rob’s piece didn’t claim to thoroughly characterize the debate or take a stance on funding. He’s debunking one argument advanced by one person in the debate. She may have other arguments that are convincing, but the one Rob shredded isn’t one of them.

Rob Tisinai
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

John, if you believe people are only objecting to funding the speakers and not to the presence of the speakers themselves, you should reread the original post and some of the comments.

Also, you may believe I am misunderstanding the controversy but I am not “trying to misrepresent it.” There’s no call in accusing me of dishonesty, if that’s what you actually meant (I hope it’s not).

But please, do that rereading, starting with, “Bringing the speakers to Stanford would threaten the safety of campus for the queer population” and reconsider whether the objections are merely about funding.

At this point, I’m going to bow out of comments. I think all sides have made themselves clear and the issue is bound to rise again. In the meantime, there are too many other issues to write about, starting with the devastating cross-examination of Regnerus that occurred in Michigan, the growing and silly conservative notion that marriage equality is “codified gender discrimination” and the ridiculous claim being circulated that the Arizona bill and others like it aren’t about gay and lesbian discrimination because the words “gay” and “lesbian” don’t appear in the bill.

John
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Marcus and Rob: Rob is not merely objecting to one student’s poorly articulated reason for opposing the funding of a hate fest, he is also propagating in the comments the pernicious idea that because there are 30 states that oppose same-sex marriage that therefore Stanford students should support the hate fest because they need to be exposed to ideas and discussion. This is silly because a) no one is opposed to students being exposed to ideas and discussion and b) the number of states that have passed deplorable amendments is irrelevant. The controversy is about paying for a propaganda event.

I think the students’ point is that Stanford should not put its imprimatur on this hatefest by paying for the speakers. Having Stanford endorse the event by paying for it is quite different from simply allowing other students to host it (which is what will happen in any case). If the student organization that is sponsoring this ugly gathering of bigots wants to sponsor it and pay for it themselves, then that says something about them and may or may not be frightening the student who is worried about safety. However, I agree with her that if the university officially sponsors such nonsense and in effect endorses those ugly ideas, then she has every right to be concerned about what kind of “safe place” Stanford is.

One should remember, after all, that not too many years ago, on at least two different occasions, the sculpture “Gay Liberation” by George Segal was severely damaged. On one occasion, members of the football team were involved in the vandalism. They got off with a slap on the wrist. As I recall, the wrestling coach defended them and said even the slap on the wrist was excessive.

As much as Maggie Gallagher was to pretend that she is the victim in the culture wars, we should know better, and we should presume that Stanford is such a safe place if it would entertain the possibility of paying for a gathering of wingnuts, most of whom have said scurrilous things about gay people and some of whom advocate severe limits on our civil rights.

John
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

PS: I hit “post” before proofing the post above. I should make it clear that the sculpture I referred to, Segal’s “Gay Liberation,” is at Stanford in its sculpture garden. It is a twin of the sculpture of the same name that is now in Sheridan Park near the Stonewall Inn.

In the final paragraph, for “Gallagher was” read “Gallagher wants” and in the for “we should presume” read “we should not presume.” Sorry.

Also, part of my disappointment in Rob’s original post and in his comments is that I have admired his posts on this blog in the past. They have struck as thoughtful and often funny and perceptive. This one seems to me to be an exception. But I did not mean to accuse of him of dishonesty. I do think he has created some straw men and in doing so attempted to make it seem that those of us who disagree with him are opposed to students being exposed to ideas and debates, which is simply not true.

I agree with him that too much time has been spent on this issue. I will look forward to reading his forthcoming post about the cross-examination of Regnerus. It seems to me far more profitable to expose the absurdities of our enemies than to attack one of our own.

Marcus
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

I’m not acquainted with the culture surrounding event planning at Stanford, but broadly speaking, I don’t consider it an inherent endorsement if a school pays for the cost of hiring a speaker for an academic forum, notwithstanding the bigotry or lack thereof in said speeches.

The person Rob quoted used the term “safe space.” I’m not sure whether you’re familiar with the term, so forgive me if I’m being redundant, but safe spaces, by definition, do block exposure to certain ideas. (It’s a specialized term denoting a forum that’s not merely physically safe, but free of certain forms of speech – e.g., bigoted speech.) Safe spaces can be a very good thing. Certain places absolutely ought to be safe spaces. Making an entire university a safe space, as the quoted student advocates, would be antithetical to the purpose of education.

Essentially, though, I don’t think Rob disagrees with you as much as you think.

John
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Marcus, you and Rob seem to be under the curious impression that there is something salubrious in being exposed to the ideas of people like Lopez and Gallagher et al. and that failing to hear them results in a diminished education. I hate to break the news to you, but unfortunately you can’t grow up in American society without hearing their b.s.

As for “safe places,” the very reason one needs safe places is because the ideas spouted by bigots have real-life consequences. The reason there are so many gay-bashings in our society and the reason so many glbtq youth attempt suicide is precisely because of the prevalence in American society of the idea that gay people are sinners, degenerates, “less than.”

We need more safe places, not fewer.

Beyond that, let me say again: No one is advocating that ideas, however malign, be banned from discussion. Presumably, at Stanford students take history lessons and learn about the Holocaust (and presumably also learn about Holocaust deniers). They learn about the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and about those who fought integration because they believed black people were inferior or that God had separated the races for a reason, etc. They no doubt learn about the struggle for equal rights for gay people and learn about the fierce opposition to repealing sodomy laws and resistance to anti-discrimination laws and the point of view of those who believe in “protecting” traditional marriage. All of these ideas are, no doubt, subjected to debate and discussion from a wide range of viewpoints.

Discussion and debate are at the heart of a university’s mission. Providing a platform for hate speech is not.

Marcus
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

When you say that “No one is advocating that ideas, however malign, be banned from discussion,” I have to disagree. Again, the term “safe space” (as opposed to the colloquial “safe place”) does imply banning certain ideas from discussion. I agree that there should be more “safe spaces,” but not that the entire university should be a “safe space,” which would compromise its educational mission. I can’t speak for Rob, but I believe that a decent education requires understanding and engaging with influential ideas, regardless of whether those ideas are correct or safe. Your examples of Holocaust studies, etc. are excellent.

It’s not that I think students should be forced to hear Lopez, etc. speak. I simply don’t think that barring them from campus is a moral imperative, as the quoted student was suggesting. As far as I can tell, discussion and debate are the issue here, not providing a criticism-shielded broadcast platform or an official stamp of approval.

Stephen
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Marcus, do I have this wrong? Please advise me. I thought the students were protesting and the organizers shut it down. The young woman under scrutiny is correct in her estimation of threat: she grew up in Utah and knows whereof she speaks. Easy to ridicule but put yourself in her shoes. Utah has the highest rate of suicide in the States because our young men and women are offing themselves in the face of a culture of hatred directed against them. So I don’t find it strange that she would feel threatened when the hatred follows her. I have no idea if we should define a university as a safe place: we try children of 14 for capital crimes.

Rob: Stylistically: Oh, I’m sorry, Brianne, did you apply to one of the world’s great universities… sarcastically you imply that her name is an issue, that it represents an overprivileged fancy-pants girlish point of view. Of course that’s not what you intend but according to the language the message is clear: girls are dumb. What if his name was Brian and he was making the same points?

But congrats on the many comments you stirred up. We’re all proud of you.

John
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Marcus, are you being willfully obtuse? I said that all ideas should be discussed, so of course I believe that “a decent education requires understanding and engaging with influential ideas, regardless of whether those ideas are correct or safe.” No one disputes that.

I also said that a university has no obligation to provide support for a hate conference, which is what this event is. It is not a forum or debate at which ideas are going to be challenged. It is simply a platform for people like Lopez and Gallagher et al. to present their ideas, many of which are odious and untruthful.

Rob Tisinai
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

I will step in once more to address Stephen. I have no idea what you’re talking about with the Brianne/fancy pants/girlish thing. If the name were Brian and he were making the same points, I’d have no problem saying,”Oh, I’m sorry, Brian, did you apply to one of the world’s great universities…”

No problem at all. It doesn’t seem the slightest bit incongruous.

Then there’s this: “But congrats on the many comments you stirred up. We’re all proud of you.”

I’m not sure what you intend with that except to insult me. Is that the point?

Marcus
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

@John: Sorry, but I’m not eager to continue a conversation with someone who calls me “willfully obtuse” for engaging their arguments in good faith.

So for the last time, I disagree with your assertions that “no one is disputing,” “no one is advocating,” etc. As I’ve repeatedly explained, it appears to me (and Rob, apparently) that some people are advocating the positions that you yourself disown. I also disagree with your assertions that funding or hosting the event would be tantamount to endorsement of the speakers’ views.

If I agreed with your premises, I would agree that your conclusions are eminently justifiable. However, I disagree with your premises, hence I disagree with your conclusions.

dave
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Well said! (or rather, written.) Good for you!

Stephen
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Rob, I’m so sorry. I’m not being snarky. I think it’s a tribute to your post that stirred so much disagreement. Trouble is that comments become so much more didactic than one intends.

Regarding ‘Brianne': according to you:

Oh, I’m sorry, Brianne, did you apply to one of the world’s great universities just so you could have your own precious thoughts reinforced? Is disagreement enough to make you feel unsafe?

Are you longing for the queer equivalent of Liberty Baptist or Bob Jones University, places where frightened evangelicals send their kids to avoid dissenting voices? Are you longing for a world-class education in a place where you never have to defend your views, where you never have to pick apart a deeply flawed argument and tear it to shreds?

Okay. Sarcasm: irony’s idiot step-child, should only be used to counter the argument of an idiot. When used against a rational opponent it makes the sarcasmer seem foolish.

Sarcastically you stress her name (not sure why but you do): Comma, Brianne Comma. More to the point you introduce this unfortunateness by framing it with the Oh, I’m sorry, Brianne… folderol. So clearly you find her name indicative of an upbringing and point of view. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all do it all the time: e.g.: Valley Girl speak. Tina Fey as Palin. But let’s not pretend it’s anything more than a lazy way of thinking. And allow me to expect better of you. And encourage your next encounter with reality.

Erp
March 15th, 2014 | LINK

Segal’s Gay Liberation statue at Stanford is actually on the west side of the main quad not in one of the statue gardens and so is passed by many students every day. Atheletics has been improving since the vandalism; See article on “Stanford athletes, allies launch “You Can Play” video” http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2013/stanford-athletes-allies-launch-you-can-play-video

The conference is still good to go as far as I can see and is billed as a training conference on making the messages more palatable rather than intending to engage those on the fence or who disagree (the minutes for the first meeting with the GSC in February brings up this point). University funding can come from several sources. First from student fees administered by the students’ themselves: the Undergraduate Senate, the Graduate Student Council (GSC), or for certain student groups from special fees the entire student body has voted on for that group or income the student group has from other sources (for instance the University pays the student newspaper to deliver to departments, etc). Second from the University administration such as individual departments or the Office for Religious Life or the University as a whole (the last would be for commencement speakers and the like). Both the Undergraduate Senate and the GSC cap the total amount any one group can receive in a year (groups that want more are expected to have asked for a special fee). Given the discussion and GradQ’s suggestion if the SAS wants to have a joint event (perhaps using the training from this conference) to a wider audience in Spring Quarter (Stanford doesn’t end the school year until June) then money would likely be forthcoming for that. Even if they wanted to invite a single speaker to address the whole campus in one of the bigger venues, money might be forthcoming.

The GSC does provide its minutes online (though the secretary needs lessons on how to write up minutes). One of the interesting things is the Anscombe Society in the March meeting claims to have $2400 in Stanford funding (I’m not sure whether this included the $600 from the GSC that was up for debate). The March meeting retracted the $600 the GSC had provided and the Undergraduate Senate provided nothing so I’m not sure where the other $1800 (or $2400) came from (whether other student groups and/or from the University proper though I’m inclined to the former).

JeanFabrice Nardelli
March 16th, 2014 | LINK

Dear Rob,

I wholly disagree with your argument about the relevance of “debating” Ryan Anderson by dint of his being a respected author. What is the point of letting a right-wing, senior ideologue spout off in Stanford without any opposition, pray tell ? He must be REBUTTED, which cannot be done in the context of any public forum or venue where histrionics count more than strong arguments and cogency of thought. Published responses, whether books or e-pamphlets, are the appropriate medium for putting to rest the fallacies of Anderson-Gordon. Take Robert Gagnon; do you really think, Rob, that letting him lecture outside of the most conservative universities and churches in “Red” states would do any good to anybody because he is a major player in the debate over GBLTQ rights ? The appropriate opposition must take the form of e-pamphlets and reviews in academic journals (in which he has not published for a long while now, a sure testimony as to the frailty of his scholarly work). That is, long, detailed pieces of argumentation picking apart the inadequate research, faulty logic, and shortcuts through the evidence antigay ideologues are committed to. I did the job for Gagnon’s big book; since the summer of 2012, not only did he remained largely silent on theological issues, his FB activity has decreased. This only proves that sturdy opposition can be sucessful, whereas the respect of free speach and empty allusions to what college education must be are all too certain to prove vain.

Sorry if my remarks offend, but the community can hardly afford to be generous with such people.

Best regards from France to the great folks of BTB.

Jay
March 16th, 2014 | LINK

I think the attack on a young woman who feels betrayed by Stanford’s funding of an anti-gay event is wholly uncalled for and beneath BTB and Rob Tisinai, whose writing I usually admire.

If you want to be “appalled,” think about the ugly rhetoric of so many of the honored guests. If you want to be “appalled,” think about the gay people who have suffered discrimination and indignity.

The mocking of a young woman from Utah, who knows first-hand the soul crushing effect of hateful rhetoric, is something I would expect from the NOM blog, not from BTB.

John
March 16th, 2014 | LINK

Erp, thanks for the clarification about the location of the Segal statue and the information about the improvement in the climate at Stanford.

Here is a link to an article at glbtq.com about the statue that includes a section on its history at Stanford. It may be found here.

Michael B.
March 16th, 2014 | LINK

The irony is that the “queer” student group likely harbors many of the same views as the anti-gay speakers. “Queer” activism has many parallels to antigay activism, although the language and presentation are different. As a queer activist his view of the marriage equality movement, of the role of gay people in American society, of the ability of gay people to live in happy, long-term committed relationships, of the mutability of sexual orientation, and you are likely to get positions similar to those of the Family Research Council, albeit without religious references.

NancyP
March 17th, 2014 | LINK

I would object to these speakers receiving university money – their qualifications would seem to be seriously deficient. However, if some outside funding supported the speakers, why not let them come and make fools of themselves at a campus-affiliated ministry. It would be wise to ensure that these individuals not be allowed to claim that the university supports their views. This caution is based on a precedent at Harvard, wherein an outside group did indeed claim that they had been sponsored by Haaavaaaad.

Rob Tisinai
March 17th, 2014 | LINK

Stephen, I tried to hold out. I wrote a response to this and then I deleted it:

Sarcastically you stress her name (not sure why but you do): Comma, Brianne Comma. More to the point you introduce this unfortunateness by framing it with the Oh, I’m sorry, Brianne… folderol. So clearly you find her name indicative of an upbringing and point of view. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all do it all the time: e.g.: Valley Girl speak. Tina Fey as Palin. But let’s not pretend it’s anything more than a lazy way of thinking.

But I have to tell you that after this comment I can no longer take anything you write seriously. If you think you have access to my secret thoughts through my use of commas — a use so provocative that it demands psychological analysis! — then all I can do is laugh at your hubris. Also, instead of ferreting out hidden motivations I may have for putting Brianne’s name in commas, you might want to review basic rules of punctuation.
http://bit.ly/1iY37R0

John
March 18th, 2014 | LINK

Rob, in your post, you admitted that you were mocking the student in question. I don’t think it is unfair to conclude that your presentation of this young woman’s name is part of the mockery.

But the larger question is the mockery itself. Do you really think it appropriate for you to be mocking this young woman?

I think you should save your mockery for those like Lopez, Regnerus, etc. who are intent on harming gay people.

shaed
March 19th, 2014 | LINK

Pretty sure Brianne was using “safe space” in a literal sense, not the specialized “no dissent” sense that Rob interpreted. She meant that school approval of violent speech against sections of the student body would make the environment literally less safe for those students.

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