What’s it like to be a conservative student on a college campus run by liberal adminstrators? Consider the case of St. Thomas College senior Katie Kieffer. Ms. Kieffer is the founder of the St. Thomas Standard, the new campus conservative periodical, the former leader of the St. Thomas chapter of the College Republicans, and one of the students who arranged for Ann Coulter to speak on campus.
Ms. Kieffer introduced Coulter when she spoke to a packed house at St. Thomas’s O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium in St. Paul on April 18. It should have been a crowning moment in the undergraduate career of an exemplary St. Thomas student. Somehow things haven’t turned out quite that way.
Life hasn’t been the same for Ms. Kieffer since April 18. First the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s fatuous columninst devoted a column to a condemnation of Coulter’s talk as “hate speech.” Answering the call of the dominant newspaper of the Twin Cities, the president of the University of St. Thomas — who had not himself attended the event — issued a handwringing statement condemning Coulter’s talk as “hateful speech” contributing “to the growing dark side of our culture…” The Star Tribune’s fatuous columnist in turn wrote a second column, congratulating the president for his wisdom in snapping to the columnist’s views.
In issuing his condemnation of the event, the St. Thomas president relied on the reports of “many people that Ms. Coulter was unsparing in her vitriolic criticism of ‘liberals’ and treated in a sarcastic, disrespectful and mean-spirited manner any audience members who challenged her viewpoints.” Having spoken to the university’s public relations spokesman, I think the president relied principally on his account of the talk and that the spokesman authored the statement issued in the president’s name. However “many people” the president heard from, the reports on which the president relied apparently did not include any account of the questions or behavior of the audience members to whom Coulter was responding.
In email messages defending his condemnation of Coulter’s talk, the president of St. Thomas has issued a remarkable Star Chamber ruling:
Ms. Coulter clearly violated our controversial issues policy, which says, among other things, that “in discussion and debate, members and guests of the university community are expected to treat one another with respect and dignity.”
The president issued his ruling that “Ms. Coulter clearly violated our policy” without seeking out or even agreeing to meet with anyone who attended the talk and saw events differently. When Ms. Kieffer asked to meet with the president, she was first told that he was not scheduling meetings on the issue. The president has subsequently agreed to meet with Ms. Kieffer — later this month. The president is not too busy to issue Star Chamber rulings, but he’s a busy guy. Limiting the evidence to one side of an argument not only expedites the hearing, it also facilitates the conclusion.
Outsiders have noticed the peculiarities of the events unfolding at St. Thomas. On the Fox News Special Report, Brit Hume has twice reported on the events following Coulter’s talk that cast St. Thomas in an unflattering light. One might think that St. Thomas would be willing to leave well enough alone, but one would be wrong.
While the president hasn’t found time to meet with Ms. Kieffer, others at the school have more than enough time on their hands to meet with her. Indeed, they have invited her to meet with them — sort of (to borrow the title of the Nabokov novel) an invitation to a beheading. They seem to believe that Ms. Kieffer should answer for their hurt feelings about Ms. Coulter’s “vitriolic criticism of ‘liberals’” and sarcastic treatment of “any audience members who challenged her viewpoints.”
Yesterday morning Ms. Kieffer received an email message from the St. Thomas Director of Campus Life. The email asked Ms. Kieffer to meet with several students who had come to the director “concerned that Ms. Coulter