Donor claims politics behind rejection of conservative speaker
A major benefactor claims that the Dean of the University of Montana’s Journalism School objected to her selection of a speaker based on opposition to his conservative views.
According to KGVO, Maria Cole is the benefactor for the Cole Memorial Scholarship, which includes an annual event called the Jeff Cole lecture. Every year, Cole invites someone to speak at the lecture, and this year she selected Mike Adams, a University of North Carolina-Wilmington professor who also writes for Townhall.com.
"I can’t help but think that politics is playing a role here."
Adams is also known for a winning a 2014 First Amendment case alleging that UNC-W had denied him a promotion based on his conservative politics, which Cole cited as her primary reason for inviting him to address journalism students.
Yet Cole claims that after inviting Adams to deliver this year’s lecture, she met opposition from the Dean of Journalism Larry Abramson.
“The Journalism School is not excited about my inviting Dr. Adams to campus and they have strongly encouraged me to select another speaker,” Cole told KGVO, noting that “I have already contracted to have Dr. Adams here and the previous nine years there have never been objections to my selection for a lecture so I find it a bit unusual now that this different voice is not welcome.”
In an email to Cole that was obtained by KGVO, Abramson expresses concern about “the risk of offending students,” pointing out that Adams “is pretty extreme in his views” but conceding that “we can still have a conversation with him if you want.”
The email cites Adams’ “opposition to tolerance of transgender accommodations” as evidence that “he appears to be siding with Christians in the ‘culture war,’” mentions “his efforts to make sure that abortion providers give time to Christian speakers, in the interest of freedom of speech,” and also links to a satirical article written by Adams on why he is “Banning Illegal Aliens From My Classes.”
When contacted by KGVO, Abramson insisted that his “chief concern” was simply that Adams is not a journalist, but then proceeded to reiterate his objections to the professor’s political views, declaring that Adams “has attacked members of the LGBTQ community in public forums and, in my view, belittled people who would characterize themselves or that he would characterize as feminists, and I think that some of those remarks could be interpreted as hate speech.”
Cole, however, countered that she has invited non-journalists to speak in past years without controversy, speculating that the pushback against Adams is just the latest example of a trend toward silencing conservative viewpoints on college campuses.
“What I had hoped for the University of Montana was that they would embrace this opportunity and sort of be a shining example of: ‘Yes, we are tolerant, we do accept different viewpoints,’” she remarked. “I can’t help but think that politics is playing a role here. I would like to think that that is not happening, but I can’t help but think that that’s the reason.”
Adams himself even wrote to UM’s president in an email, a copy of which he provided to Campus Reform, to express his dissatisfaction with what he described as a “decision to ban me from speaking” on campus.
“Earlier this semester, I was invited to speak at the University of Montana (UM) as part of a distinguished lecture series funded by an outside benefactor,” Adams wrote. “The nine previous lectures went off without a hitch. Then, they invited me to speak in February of 2018. Now, I have been banned from speaking on your campus.”
Adams then proceeds to rebut each of Abramson’s claims about him, asserting that his position on “transgender accommodations” is well within the mainstream, and that the dean’s remark about Adams “siding with Christians” is “unbridled religious bigotry.”
Adams then corrects the claim that he has sought to make “abortion providers” give equal time to conservative speakers, explaining that he was actually referring to the tendency of campus Women’s Resource Centers to use mandatory student fees for pro-abortion speakers, but not pro-life advocates.
He also contradicts Abramson’s claim that he speaks “exclusively” on right wing sites, noting that not only has he appeared on “MSNBC, Air America, and numerous other left wing stations and sites,” but that he has also “spoken at 93 different universities, the overwhelming majority of which have been dominated by left-wing academics such as Dean Abramson.”
Addressing Abramson’s concerns about his column on “banning illegal aliens,” Adams scoffs that “everyone seems to understand my journalistic satire except for your Dean of Journalism,” after which he turns to First Amendment considerations.
“Finally, the Dean of Journalism states that he cannot allow for the mere risk that his students will be offended. Thus, the Dean is engaging in prior restraint of all speech that could potentially offend someone,” Adams wrote. “Let that sink in as you continue to ponder this man’s competence to serve as Dean of Anything much less the Dean of Journalism.”
“If you were smart, you would lift the ban on me speaking at UM,” he concluded. “Then, you could hire me as your new Dean of Journalism.”
Cole told KGVO that she still plans on bringing Adams to Montana, but is seeking out an off-campus location.
Campus Reform reached out to Abramson, but did not receive a response.
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