Angela Davis was scheduled to appear today at Butler University (via Zoom). Students organized the event, but she will not appear, at least not this week. Students say they have been given various reasons, including the costs of the event, but they believe Butler is reacting to Davis’s progressive politics.
Mark Apple, interim director of strategic communications at Butler, said, “Allegations that the event was canceled due to pressure from students who had concerns about the speaker and the content of the program are completely false.” He added, “The university’s policy for securing outside speakers was not followed, and funding for the program (a significant five-figure fee) was neither discussed nor authorized by the Student Government Association (SGA) student senate. When SGA leaders learned the established processes weren’t followed for this substantial expenditure of student activity fees, they consulted with their advisers and made the decision Monday to postpone the event, the last day to do so without financial obligation. This was a decision made by the student leaders.”
He said that the university is working to reschedule the event.
Roua Daas, a senior and director of the SGA’s diversity, equity and inclusion board, told The Indianapolis Star that students have been planning the event since January and university officials have known about it since February. “I think that this is just blatant censorship,” Daas said. “It’s a betrayal of the university’s supposed mission.”
And Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America, said, “In circumstances like this where there is even the possibility of appearing like administrators are trampling on students’ organized events, it behooves the university to be transparent and clear about its processes, and to work diligently to support students to ensure such events go forward without bias. If that is what is happening here, that is a good thing, but our concern remains that students are alleging that policies are being enforced arbitrarily and inconsistently, leaving them with the impression that the speaker at hand is the reason why.”
Davis, distinguished professor emerita in the history of consciousness and feminist studies departments at the University of California, Santa Cruz, did not respond to an email seeking her opinion.