If Diversity Is Claimed, Offer Diverse Speakers

Attempts on university campuses to silence opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to the rise of anti-Arab and anti-immigrant racism, to the unlawful detention and torture of Muslims and other prisoners of war, to murderous economic policies and practices have become all too commonplace. This silencing of opposition takes many forms, from ever-increasing restrictions on student assembly and speech to the much more insidious disappearance of funding for grassroots events, forums and outreach. At the same time, of course, more politically agreeable events are generously funded by university administration and corporate foundations. UC Irvine has proven no exception.
In a recent letter to the editor, six department chairs from the School of Social Sciences ‘condemned’ the April 26 protest against Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellows Series speaker Jagdish Bhagwati. The letter proclaimed its support ‘for the open exchange of ideas,’ which is achieved, the letter argued, by inviting to campus speakers ‘that increase the diversity of views presented here.’
This public outcry was dutifully followed by a campuswide e-mail from Chancellor Drake, which reiterated the university’s role as a ‘marketplace of ideas’ where all members of the campus community should ‘show appreciation for one another, for people of diverse opinions, backgrounds and cultures, and for ideas that may be different from their own.’ Such responses would have one believe in our university’s determination to safeguard academia