Opinion: Lafayette should not welcome harmful speech


Photo courtesy of Michael Vadon

As a part of an effort to increase viewpoint diversity and free speech on campus, President Byerly has invited Nigel Farage, a British politician known to make anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant statements, to take part in a nationalism versus globalism debate here on April 6.

This debate is choreographed and will allow an ethnonationalist a platform for his hateful views. It is set to take place during two Jewish holidays, a conflict that easily could have been avoided, but one which certainly excludes Jewish students.

President Byerly has made statements affirming the academic utility of this event, asserting that she sees a potential for student growth stemming from it. However, as leaders from all around campus, we reject Farage’s message and we reject the message that Lafayette administration is sending by bringing him to our home.

We fear not only the effects that this event may have on our campus discourse but further, the emotional and physical harm that Farage’s comment may initiate. We feel that his capacity to inflict emotional harm and his potential to incite violence against campus groups make him not a purveyor of free speech, but a harbinger of an uncomfortable, unsafe residential campus environment.

We view the way his rhetoric targets certain groups on campus as contrary to Lafayette’s firm non-discrimination policy. We choose to understand Lafayette as a place that “does not discriminate in any way on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, national origin, age, or disability.” We feel, however, that this event has particular power to harm specific religious and cultural groups on campus.

While we recognize the importance of the debate that Farage is meant to be a part of, we feel that this same aim could be accomplished without such a risky speaker. We challenge Farage’s legitimacy to debate because the inherent dignity of our students should not be not up for debate. Surely diversifying the narratives and opinions that are presented on our campus is crucial to the personal, social and intellectual growth of college students, but it should never come at the cost of students’ emotional and physical well-being.

To the Lafayette community: we urge you to stand up for a campus climate that welcomes and engages all perspectives without ever creating harmful situations. We ask that you, too, stand against Nigel Farage’s visit to campus with the Steamboat Institute because we all deserve to feel at home here.

This message is from: Hillel (Gabby Tropp, Sydney Edelson, Katie Gonick, Julia Dash, Anna Nollan), Muslim Student Association (Ayat Husseini), Hispanic Society of Lafayette (Fraynette Familia), Association of Black Collegians (Princess Adeyinka), International Students Association (Austin Botelho)