Recently, a complaint was filed to President Armstrong by David Conn, Co-Chair of the Inclusive Excellence Council (IEC) on behalf of an unnamed Multicultural Center (MCC) staff member. The nature of this complaint is ironic coming from a council that claims to be “inclusive.”
Conn states that the Council does not object to the content of Coulter’s speech, but rather to her behavior toward the students in the audience. He suggests that during her Q-and-A, Coulter tried to intimidate and demean students who sought to challenge her views, and accuses her of ranting and reducing a student to tears. Conn notes that while Coulter had the right to answer questions as she saw fit, “her behavior was entirely inconsistent with the values and principles” laid out in Cal Poly’s Statement of Commitment to Community.
First, Conn has chosen to distort the purpose and language of Cal Poly’s Statement of Commitment to Community, which only applies to students, faculty and staff — not to guest speakers. In other words, students are to respect each other and respect staff and faculty members. In turn, faculty and staff are supposed to respect each other as well as students.
Second, Conn’s accusation that Coulter tried to demean students is completely inaccurate. When interviewed, Conn was unable to give any specific examples of how Coulter’s behavior was inappropriate toward students, stating that his memory was “hazy.”
Unlike Conn, we attended the presentation, during which the students that faced so-called “intimidation” were the ones who sought to intimidate Coulter. They distorted her words, misinterpreted her jokes, suggested that she was racist and challenged the accuracy of her statistics. Students were given an opportunity to ask one question. When Coulter responded, some argued with her and refused to leave the microphone. Coulter was then forced to cut them off and move on to the next question. A group of students who did not like this booed and shouted over her as she tried to talk.
Due to microphone “monopolizers” and several hecklers, many waiting in line did not get to ask their questions. Cal Poly students should remember they represent the university at events such as this. Booing and shouting at a speaker is disrespectful behavior that I’m sure Cal Poly would not condone. But of course all of this was conveniently left out of the complaint.
Third, it is not true, as Conn asserts, that the event was primarily made up of community members. While the event was open to the community, students made up the majority of those in attendance. If anything, Cal Poly should be commended for making an event such as this open to the community because it gave the university a chance to showcase its commitment to free speech. This ultimately boosted Cal Poly’s community image.
The reality is that the complaint had nothing to do with Coulter’s presentation or people getting their feelings hurt by her speech or behavior. It is an attempt to undermine our event and prevent future conservative speakers such as Coulter from coming to campus.
Generally, conservative values are belittled in the classroom, whether blatantly or subtly. Yet, you don’t see conservatives crying or filing complaints about it with the university. Professors, peers and guest speakers are entitled to their beliefs, even if they make some of us feel, as Conn states, “marginalized” or “isolated”. The Inclusive Excellence Council should take a good, hard look at whether it is upholding the values it claims to promote. If it wants people to feel included, then it cannot exclude conservative perspectives.
Otherwise, the Inclusive Excellence Council might want to change its name to the Exclusive Incompetence Council. Like mutual respect, inclusivity is a two-way street.
On behalf of the Cal Poly College Republicans, we would like to thank President Armstrong, Cal Poly Student Life and Leadership and everyone at ASI who helped make this event possible. Thank you for showing your commitment to freedom of speech and intellectual diversity. We trust that Cal Poly will remain committed to these values.