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Stanford University reconsiders refusal to fund "anti gay" conference
March 21, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
It sounds like both private and public universities could use a refresher course on the First Amendment.
A student group at Stanford University briefly tried to refuse funding for security for an upcoming conference because of its perceived "anti gay" content. The conference on "Communicating Values" is scheduled for next month and is sponsored by the Stanford Anscombe Society, which sought funding from Stanford's Graduate Student Council. A group of vocal Stanford students opposed funding, claiming that the conference will make the campus "unsafe" for LGBT students.
"A lot of students who are queer come to Stanford because it's one of the most LGBT-friendly places in the world," student Brianne Huntsman told The Stanford Daily, the student newspaper. "I grew up in Utah, where it was really conservative and a lot of us come from similar backgrounds, and we feel that we every time we go home. Stanford is supposed to be a safe space for us." The article can be found at www.stanforddaily.com/2014/03/12/gsc-denies-funding-for-controversial-anti-lgbt-event/
The "anti gay" speakers at the conference will presumably be expressing views in opposition to the legalization of gay marriage and their support for "traditional marriage." I'm not sure how the expression of those viewpoints threatens anyone's safety, unless we are now at the point where legally adult college students feel threatened by the expression of an opposing viewpoint. I don't think Stanford University or any other university IS a "safe space" for gay or heterosexual students. Learning, after all, is not supposed to be an entirely safe or comfortable process. It is supposed to include learning about and discussing multiple viewpoints and meeting people from different backgrounds. I doubt the students of Stanford Anscombe Society always feel "safe" on the "LGBT-friendly" campus either. In our country, no one has the legal right not to be offended or to shut someone else up because we don't like what they have to say.
The university attempted to charge the Stanford Anscombe Society $5,000 in extra security costs, which would have resulted in the organization scaling back the conference. After the organization sent a letter to the provost asking "that the security fee be removed since it imposed a tax on free speech," the university relented and "found" additional funds to provide security, according to a press release issued by the organization, which can be found at http://www.stanfordanscombe.org/march-20-2014.html
Andrew Kloster, a blogger at heritage.org, wrote that California state law forbids even private universities from refusing funding for an event simply because it doesn't like the message. His blog can be found at http://blog.heritage.org/2014/03/20/heritage-scholar-threat-safety-stanford-campus/ So maybe the powers that be realized that they were on shaky legal ground. Hopefully other campuses that might be inclined to do something similar will take note.
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