College updates its campus speaker policy after controversial Kamala Harris remarks

A new policy at Saint Vincent College will require the president to approve all speakers hosted at university-sponsored events.

The update assures that the campus will host a 'diversity of responsible opinion on a variety of topics' and that speech inconsistent with the college values will not be allowed on campus.

A new policy at Saint Vincent College will require the college president’s approval before speakers can be invited to campus to ensure the programming aligns with the Catholic school’s values. 

The new protocol was announced in a community update on Apr. 19 by college president Father Paul Taylor. The letter addressed three bullet-pointed steps that will be taken to change how speech is regulated on campus.

The policy comes in the wake of a free speech controversy earlier this month when the College apologized for hosting a speaker that suggested Vice President Kamala Harris only filled the role because she is Black.

Assistant Professor and Research Fellow at Hillsdale College David Azerrad made the accusation during a lecture that was part of a two-day program hosted by the Center for Political and Economic Thought Apr. 8-9. Azerrad’s segment, titled “Black Privilege and Racial Hysteria in Contemporary America,” drew immediate criticism from students and alumni. 

As such, “all public presentations sponsored by the College” will require Taylor and additional Cabinet members to approve speakers to “make sure that the message to be delivered is not in conflict with the spirit and Mission of the College.”

Saint Vincent College is located in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. 

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A public forum was held on Apr. 22 to allow the public to express their opinions on the new policies, and virtual listening sessions will be held by the President’s team.

According to The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the new policy is a “brazen violation of Saint Vincent’s binding commitments to free expression and academic freedom for students and faculty” and may put the school’s accreditation in jeopardy.

The free speech nonprofit sent a letter to Taylor on Apr. 22 requesting that the policy be overturned.

“We respectfully submit that Saint Vincent must reconsider its hast exercise of censorship in this case and quickly correct course for the benefit of all its students and faculty, and the college at large,” the letter states. 

Under the new policy, the Center for Political and Economic Thought will report directly to Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the College Jeff Mallory, who will also be responsible for the “review and assessment of policies and procedures.”

Taylor addressed the hysteria in the announcement, acknowledging that Azerrad’s speech was “inconsistent with the fundamental Mission of our College.”

Our mission centers around the inherent belief that only when we lift up human dignity can we move the world forward,” he said.

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The new policy aims to curb future events from crossing the values of the college leadership, as well as “rebuild trust, heal our community and protect the diversity of opinion critical to our students’ educational growth.”

“The tenets of Academic Freedom – academic rigor and reasoned analysis - are treasured here,” Taylor stated. “Faculty and students are encouraged to explore, discuss and responsibly debate topics and be inspired to search for truth in our classrooms, and on our campus. Our community, however, will not allow the platform of our College to be used to promote a message contrary to our mission.”

The update assures that the new speaker policy will ensure that the campus hosts a “diversity of responsible opinion on a variety of topics” and that speech inconsistent with the college values will not be allowed on campus.

Campus Reform contacted all involved organizations and individuals mentioned for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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