Discourse / Editorials / November 17, 2010

Thoughts from the Embers: No debate here

As stated in the Oct. 21 issue of The Knox Student (TKS), “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).”

The IDF was formed in 2007 as an independent organization that strives, as stated on its website, “to bring needed intellectual balance to Knox College.” The homepage of its website asks, “When was the last time you were a conservative on a college campus?” The entire board of IDF consists of Knox graduates.

In a recent letter to Roger Taylor from IDF President Kory Atkinson, Atkinson described Knox as leaning too far to the left politically.

Honestly, what does the IDF expect? This is a liberal campus and a liberal college, and as Taylor said later in that same issue of TKS, this is an educational institution. To expect that our main focus here is to bring speakers that are equally divided amongst all political parties is wrong. Our focus here is to learn whatever we can from the speakers that do come to Knox, whatever their political affiliation may be.

In reference to the debate about disclosing sponsorship of events, we here at TKS do not think that every poster put up around campus needs to have the names of those who put it there. This would compromise free speech. Rather, we feel that when an event is being advertised, especially an event in which funding (from Knox or elsewhere) was used to bring a certain group or speaker to campus, the names of the organizations that helped bring that speaker should be made known in all advertisements. This is the simple matter of making sure that the school, as well as groups not affiliated with Knox that bring speakers or events to our campus, is transparent in where our money is being spent. Even in the case that a non-Knox group, such as IDF, should bring a speaker to campus, said group should still be required to state the event was funded by them and whoever helped to fund the event, in order to put concerns to rest about whose money is bringing which speakers to campus.

It has always been the norm for student organizations to be required to list which groups sponsor events on any form of advertisement for an event, so why shouldn’t everyone?

While many members of the Knox community realize that it is valuable to have both sides of an issue be represented in the speakers we bring to campus, we should also take into consideration the kinds of speakers the Knox community wants.

An article printed in last week’s TKS reads, “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.’” In the same article, Professor of Political Science Karen Kampwirth brought up the fact that this is nothing new, and that we have always disclosed sponsorship of events (or at least, we are always supposed to).

Kampwirth drafted an amendment to this resolution. This amendment states, “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.”

This seems to be common sense – that to uphold transparency, we have to tell people where the money is coming from. If there’s any reason that a certain group doesn’t want to disclose information about what speakers or events they are funding, we’d like to ask them: who do you think you’re fooling? The only reason this rule exists is to provide transparency about what we put the college’s money into, and listing which events aren’t using the college’s money at all is included in that.

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