Bannon debate invite draws outrage at University of Chicago

Steve Bannon’s invitation to debate at the University of Chicago sparked a wave of outrage on campus, with students and faculty blasting the school for hosting the former White House strategist.

Bannon is slated to participate in a debate on immigration and globalization in the coming weeks after accepting an invite extended by Booth School of Business professor Luigi Zingales, The Chicago Maroon reported.

Zingales justified his decision to invite Bannon in a Facebook post last week, arguing that problems in the U.S. “cannot be solved by demonizing [those] who think differently” and that hate “cannot be defeated by hate.”

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“At the University of Chicago, we have some of the best economic minds of the planet,” Zingales wrote. “It is our civic duty to engage them in finding the causes of this backlash and in trying to address them.”

While Zingales noted that he does not personally agree with Bannon, he expressed the importance of open debate on campus.

“For this reason, I invited Mr. Bannon to a debate on these issues with our faculty,” he continued. “I firmly believe that the current problems in America cannot be solved by demonizing [those] who think differently, but by addressing the causes of their dissatisfaction.”

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According to the Bangor Daily News, the announcement of the planned event sparked protests among students, who gathered outside the Booth School of Business to express their outrage at the university.

Earlier in January, dozens of professors signed a letter addressed to the university president and provost, voicing their concern about hosting Bannon on campus.

“As a university we must do the difficult work of collectively judging how we enact our espoused principles and adjudicating between principles that point us in different directions,” the letter states. “We believe that Bannon should not be afforded the platform and opportunity to air his hate speech on this campus.”

The letter goes on to claim that Bannon’s “presence will have will have deleterious consequences” on the school’s “ability to build a diverse and inclusive intellectual community—a principle that is also central to the university’s mission.”

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In response to the criticism, the university reiterated its commitment to free speech, stressing that the institution “is deeply committed to upholding the values of academic freedom, the free expression of ideas, and the ability of faculty and students to invite the speakers of their choice.”

“Any recognized student group, faculty group, University department or individual faculty member can invite a speaker to campus,” a university statement read. “We recognize that there will be debate and disagreement over this event; as part of our commitment to free expression, the University supports the ability of protesters and invited speakers to express a wide range of views.”

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