During Ralph Reed’s recent visit to our august institution I listened to a liberal student (yes, I know this for a fact for reasons I can’t state here) ask President Shalala why Reed had even been invited. This really caught me off guard because it would never occur to me to ask such a question.
The answer given was that the University seeks to have a variety of points of view expressed. This is something I’d take for granted-like when the Resident Masters organized and funded a showing of Fahrenheit 9/11 last November, complete with an appearance by Lila Lipscomb, featured in that film as the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq in the opening days of the war. It never even occurred to me to inquire why they did it.
Certainly Reed is no friend to the liberal agenda. As the former Executive Director of the Christian Coalition, former Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party and current candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, Reed is also no friend to what some may term the “gay agenda.” That members of SpectrUM and S.T.A.N.D have a problem with him is not in the least bit surprising. That’s the wonderful thing about America in general and UM in particular-you can have both a recognized Conservative Republican leader speak on our campus and those that disagree with him can stand (no pun intended) outside and hold up signs criticizing him.
Although some were very critical of those two groups’ walkout in the middle of the speech-and it was certainly meant to be “politely” rude-that’s also part of this wonderful system of ours: the complete loss of good taste in going inside following Reed’s departure and eating the food put out for his reception.
Polite and respectful disagreement is part and parcel of a free society, a sentiment at the center of the speech that SpectrUM and S.T.A.N.D. walked out on. To disagree is one thing, but for liberals to say that Reed shouldn’t have been invited or that the invitation implies some kind of a bad precedent is an entirely different matter. Kanye West was here recently. There are plenty of conservatives and Republicans on campus that disagree with him every bit as much as SpectrUM and S.T.A.N.D. disagree with Ralph Reed. Yet you’ll never hear any of us ask, “Why are you inviting him?” or “It’s a bad thing that he was brought here.” You may see us protest him, but you’ll never see us question the propriety of him being here. It’s a shame that too many liberals on this campus can’t practice the same kind of tolerance they routinely accuse conservatives of lacking.
Scott Wacholtz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.