I had refrained from passing comment on this subject … however my son was surprised that I had not commented, I guess he thinks I have an opinion :-), so here we go!
Ann Coulter was invited to speak at the University of Ottawa to a small group. It was not an official University invitation, it was an invite from a group of students.
The woman is very controversial, seems willing to say just about anything and gets away with some of it because she is said to be a comedienne and satirist … although many are offended by her attempts at “humour”.
The University’s provost Francois Houle wrote a letter to Coulter before her arrival advising her against speech that would be unlawful in Canada.
The night of her talk there was a mini riot, about 2,000 showed up for a venue that might have held less than 100. There were lots of loud protestors, someone pulled the alarm, there was jostling and the police came. A suggestion was made that she cancel the talk, she did and everyone went home.
That’s when the furore really started!
Coulter supporters claimed that she had been barred from speaking at the university and that was a violation of her rights … namely freedom of speech.
The provost has been hung drawn and quartered for sending the “warning” letter ahead of the event, and causing a lot of the subsequent hassle.
The University of Ottawa is looking like a backwater institution that won’t allow anyone to provide opinion that isn’t mainstream or approved.
Coulter herself is considering a Human Rights complaint against the university.
Wow … what a storm in a teacup.
The BIG issue appears to be freedom of speech.
Coulter spoke at two other Canadian universities on this Canadian trip and I have no reason to believe she wouldn’t have been allowed to speak in Ottawa if the circumstances had not become unsafe. They became unsafe partly (mainly?) because of the furore caused by Coulter and her cohorts prior to the visit in response to the provost’s letter.
Kevin’s take: Nobody’s right to speak was violated.
The University look stupid.
Yes they do. Welcome to the real world, suck it up and get past it. The letter was naive and with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight I’m sure the guy is kicking himself for writing it. I’m also sure he was acting in the best interests of the university, trying to look out for their best interests. Anyone with any understanding of Coulter would know that she would pounce on it and use it for her own gain … and boy did she get some press out of it!
Kevin’s take: The provost was well intentioned but naive. The university might want to hire some PR expertise and provide their administration with some training.
The Students were intolerant.
This is an interesting one. The supporters of Coulter are allowed to support the kind of hatred preached by the woman but those who are appalled by her and all she stands for are supposed to not voice an opinion. I didn’t see any reports of violence, I saw reports of a potentially violent situation. There were a lot of young people who were vehemently opposed to letting this hatred monger talk … that’s an opinion too.
Kevin’s take: Coulter got what she wanted … a ton of free publicity. The students let the world know what they thought, I think that’s not all bad. Should they have let her talk? I don’t think they stopped her talking … if she had insisted on talking there might have been more police, there might have been some violence who knows.
At the end of the day Coulter won some publicity (now more people know what kind of stuff she talks about), the university looks bad but they’ll get over it, the students are students and the press got something to write about. It will be interesting to see if Francois Houle survives, I think he should but sometimes sacrificing the lamb helps to sooth the pain. Or maybe that’s something Coulter would like!