Coulter Lecture Sparks Controversy
Students Express Concern Over How Funds Are Spent
Published: Sunday, December 4, 2005
Updated: Monday, January 18, 2010 16:01
The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) approved $16,035 on Oct. 26 to fund a lecture by conservative commentator Ann Coulter, the most it has ever spent on a speaker, according to USG Funding Board Chair Michael McKiernan, a 5th-semester political science major.
The College Republicans are sponsoring the event, which will be on Dec. 7 at 7:00 p.m. at The Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. They chose Coulter as a speaker because "she's an icon of conservative pop culture," said College Republican Chairman Michael Hubbard, a 5th-semester management major. Hubbard said he hoped Coulter's lecture would spark a dialogue and affect political apathy among students.
Coulter is a political commentator who has appeared on Hannity and Colmes, Real Time with Bill Maher, the O'Reilly Factor and Good Morning America. She has written the books, "How to talk to a Liberal (If You Must)," "Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism," "Slander: Liberal Lies about the American Right" and "High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton," according to her web site, www.anncoulter.com.
Some students feel Coulter is a polarizing political figure and a poor choice.
Eric Knudsen, a 3rd-semester journalism and social welfare double major organized a group called Students Against Hate in response. The group plans to create a positive Counter-Coulter event, where students can "share their distinct cultures with one another and the campus in one culminating event." The group will meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. in room 403 in the Student Union.
Knudsen said he is not opposed to a diversity of ideas on campus. Rather he opposes Coulter because, "[she] expresses more than her political views-she makes death threats."
He referenced a statement Coulter made at the 2002 Conservative Political Action Conference about John Walker Lindh, the American citizen captured during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.
"When contemplating college liberals, you really regret once again that John Walker is not getting the death penalty," Coulter said at the conference. "We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too."
Hubbard acknowledged Coulter does make sensational statements, however he said her comments are satirical and should be regarded with a sense of humor.
"I can't believe she's entirely serious," he said.
Knudsen also took issue with the funding of the event.
"No speaker should come to this university on student dollars if he or she is going to make UConn students feel unsafe," Knudsen said. He said USG Sen. Emily Salisbury and Sen. Rob Casapulla, who are also members of the executive board of the College Republicans had conflicting interests when they voted to fund the event.
USG Multicultural and Diversity Sen. Michael Towers, a 7th-semester sociology and women's studies major, agreed. The College Republicans had an "undue influence" in the vote, and that "no other organization on campus has that unequal privilege," Towers said.
USG senators, however are not required to be totally unbiased. The USG Funding Board's code of ethics requires its members to be neutral. In order to receive funding, a group must first apply to the Funding Board, which judges whether or not the group's application meets USG requirements before it passes the application on for review by the senate. The board judges applications based on "the number of undergraduate students expected to benefit from the funding, the organization's past record with in the USG funding system, the degree of availability to all the undergraduate students on the Storrs campus, and the degree of the educational, social and cultural benefits the event promotes," according to the USG web site, www.usg.uconn.edu. The College Republicans initially requested $16,295, to fund a private dinner with Coulter, however, the Funding Board refused to give them money for the dinner, deeming it a personal expense. Coulter usually charges approximately $30,000 per appearance, however the event is co-sponsored by the Clare Booth Luce Institute, an organization that presented Coulter with its Woman of the Year Award in 2003.
The College Republicans did receive a large amount, McKiernan said, but it isn't the most a group has ever received. The USG felt the amount was appropriate, given Coulter's national status.
Both Knudsen and Towers were concerned about security at the event, mentioning last April's lecture by former professional wrestler Warrior, which was also sponsored by the College Republicans.
The College Republicans are already looking into security measures for the Dec. 7 lecture, according to Hubbard. They are concerned not only with protecting students, but Coulter. On Oct. 21, 2004, two men threw banana cream pies at Coulter during a lecture she was giving at the University of Arizona, according to the Arizona Daily Wildcat. Hubbard said he hopes people who disagree with Coulter will be respectful and not ruin the event.