Conservative author Heather Mac Donald spoke at Emory University on Tuesday—despite the best efforts the student government's chief of staff, who filed a petition arguing that the event violated "the right of freedom from discrimination by any student group."
This petition was dismissed, since Mac Donald's talk was not funded by student fees and therefore was free of the non-discrimination requirement.
But many students agreed that Mac Donald's words were discriminatory and a threat to public safety. They gathered in a "safe space" while she spoke, watching her speech on a video feed from a remote location. The Emory Wheel reports:
Simultaneously, downstairs, a group of more than 80 students, faculty and staff members crowded into a lecture hall to watch a livestream of Mac Donald's remarks. This event, hosted by Emory NAACP, the Caucus of Emory Black Alumni (CEBA) and Rollins Earn and Learn, was advertised as "a safe space for students to be able to express their reaction to what Heather Mac Donald has to say."
CEBA President Natalie Gullatt (11C), who helped organize the response event, emphasized the need for an environment for individuals affected by Mac Donald's inflammatory remarks. Gullatt said that the two events were held at the same time to reduce attendance at Mac Donald's lecture.
"We don't want to give her any type of ammunition or any type of way to use anything that's done tonight to help propel her message," Gullatt said.
Mac Donald is the author of such provocative as The War on Cops and The Diversity Delusion. The latter argues that higher education administrators are wrong to focus on nominal diversity based on skin color, gender, sexual preference, and so on. She was invited to speak at Emory by the College Republicans.
Emory's administration admirably defended the conservative students' right to feature her. This did not sit well with some others:
Jocelyn Stanfield (20C), an attendee of the response event, was among the first to speak out against Mac Donald's visit and contacted the University to cancel the event, who cited their free expression policy in defense. She believes that the administration should have done more to assist minority communities by "reaching out and making sure [they] feel supported."
"A lot of minorities already don't feel comfortable in an all-white space or a white-majority environment," Stanfield said. "We just want them to know that they have a voice here, and the majority of the students on campus disagree with what Heather Mac Donald is proclaiming."
Students should feel welcome to disagree with Mac Donald. (They would find plenty of company here at Reason.com.) They are free to feel unsafe, too. But life outside Emory is going to be difficult indeed if mere words are enough to make them run for cover.
For more about students and safe spaces, check out my book, Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump.