November 10, 2010

Faculty debates regulation of speakers

The campus-wide debate concerning disclosure of sponsorship of speakers brought to campus reached a new level of intensity following the administration’s latest tussle with the Intellectual Diversity Foundation (IDF).

IDF wrote a letter to Knox asserting that the college has a “left-leaning bias” and does not make an effort to bring conservative speakers to campus.

The ensuing debate among faculty centers upon a resolution by the Executive Committee which reads as follows: “Be it resolved by the faculty that information on sources of external funding should be made available to any member of the campus community. The President may consider requests by donors to remain anonymous and act on those requests at his or her discretion in the best interests of the College and its values.”

At an all-faculty meeting in September, one faculty member in attendance drafted an amendment to the resolution, literally on the back of an envelope.

“It’s really not a matter of a new policy,” Professor of Political Science and author of the amendment Karen Kampwirth said. “It’s sort of a reminder to ourselves [that disclosure of sponsorship is the norm.]”

Her amendment, which has been dubbed the “Kampwirth Amendment,” reads as follows: “Be it further resolved that, as a courtesy, the sponsors of an event, both Knox and non-Knox sponsors, should be indentified in the course of advertising the event.”

Kampwirth describes her amendment as “friendly;” rather, she supports the original resolution, and her addition is meant to clarify it.

In a document sent to the faculty concerning the Executive Committee’s resolution, President Roger Taylor expressed his disapproval of both the resolution and Kampwirth’s amendment, but he added that if the faculty feels the need to take some action, it should approve only the latter.

“The resolutions would constitute regulations of speech. Not much regulation, but an institution whose motto is ‘Veritas’ should be chary of having even not much regulation of speech,” Taylor wrote.

To Kampwirth, the issue is a matter of common sense, as Knox has been doing this all along. The practice of publicizing the sponsorship of a speaker event remains commonplace.

For example, Tuesday’s speech by conservative scholar Joshua Muravchik, “The Wisdom of Neoconservatism,” was publicized by posters which did not forget to mention sponsorship by the Cultural Events Committee, the IDF and the Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies.

“As a matter of courtesy, when you’re advertising the talk, and when you’re at the talk itself, you should identify the groups that sponsored it,” Kampwirth said. “We normally do that anyway.”

One major concern brought up by both Taylor and Kampwirth with respect to the resolutions is that they lack any sort of policing mechanism, or a means by which to enforce the resolution.

Other faculty members have since jumped into the debate. Professor of Political Science Sue Hulett wrote in an e-mail to the faculty about her opposition to Executive Committee’s resolution on the grounds that it is unnecessary and grounded in a desire to keep conservative speakers from coming to campus.

“I believe the principle of free speech ought to trump any apparent attempt to manipulate against the inclusion of viewpoints that may be politically incorrect,” Hulett wrote.

Charlie Megenity
Charlie Megenity (formerly Gorney) is a senior double majoring in political science and economics. He previously served TKS as managing editor and as co-news editor while working as the weekend reporter for The Galesburg Register-Mail. Over the summer of 2012, Charlie interned in Wisconsin with Patch.com, an online hyperlocal news source, where he covered the August 2012 Oak Creek Sikh temple shooting; he will return to Patch during the summer of 2013. He is also the journalism editor for Catch magazine.. Charlie has received three awards from the Illinois College Press Association for newswriting and design, including a first place award for front page layout. He was the 2013 recipient of the Theodore Hazen Kimble Memorial Award in Journalism for a feature story published in The Knox Student. His work has also appeared in The Huffington Post.


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