Opinion: Regarding Nigel Farage, the Mill Series & funding sources: An open letter from alumni

Photo+courtesy+of+Gage+Skidmore

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

To the Lafayette community,

The recent efforts to promote viewpoint diversity on campus are laudable. However, the choice of speakers, most recently the invitation of Nigel Farage, is troubling. We, as alumni of color, immigrants, and allies, are concerned that these efforts, especially the Mill Series, are not “apolitical” or “nonpartisan” as they claim to be. Farage has expressed xenophobic, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views. Alex Epstein, a known climate change skeptic who has attempted to debunk the scientific consensus on man-made effects of climate change by likening it to Scientology, is scheduled to visit in October 2018, hosted by the Mill Series. The Roaming Millennial, a conservative vlogger hosted by the Mill Series in the past, denies the systemic oppression that black people currently face in the U.S.

We are further concerned that the Mill Series, a registered 501(c)3 organization, can receive funds from external sources. This creates a disparity among the organizations on campus, as student organizations that receive money from student government operate at a much lower budget compared to the Mill Series, introducing an extremely undemocratic dynamic to the education provided to current students. Alex Epstein’s speaker fee is $20,000-$30,000, according to his All American Speakers Page. Anecdotal evidence from a Reddit thread on Jordan Peterson’s speaking fees shows his cost to be $35,000-$50,000. We would like to know how the Mill Series can afford these costly speakers, besides contributions from the Alumni/ae Coalition for Lafayette (ACL), whose outspoken members belong to the $1 million donor society (said members had previously cancelled gifts, lowered them or considered doing so over reports that conservative views are actively suppressed at Lafayette, among other reasons.)

We are not asking the Mill Series be shut down because we also believe in Free Speech. But we also believe that there is a line between free and hate speech, and that a college should not provide a platform for spreading hatred or misinformation regarding racial injustice or the climate crisis. We ask for more transparency in the operations of the Mill Series, such as publishing its annual tax Form 990 on its website, which would include information on its revenue and expenses. We also ask for an open and democratic speaker selection process and proper mechanisms to facilitate critique.

In closing, we ask that the college administration take the issue of security seriously when inviting controversial speakers, as hate crimes have been on the rise on college campuses and white supremacist groups are active in the area as of 2017. Lafayette has had its share of hate crimes on campus (swastikas on campus were prevalent in 2011). We have appreciated many of the talks, such as the one by Lucia Martinez, and the debate between Profs. Jessica Carr and Katalin Fabian, and we encourage the Mill Series to follow through with its belief of fostering unfettered and genuine dialogue across the political spectrum, rather than becoming a top-down propaganda machine.

Sincerely,

Dr. Konstantinos Bousmalis ‘05

Dr. Inku Subedi ‘05

Dr. Evgenia Nikolova ‘06

Mehzabin Ahmed ‘06

Daniela Simova ‘06

Stefany Feliciano ‘06

Benjamin Arthur ‘07

Terese Brown ‘07

Victor Cohen ‘07

Abdul-Rahman Salkini ‘07

Dr. Miloš Jovanović ‘07

Benjamin Arthur ‘07

Daniel Flynn ‘07

Maly Fung-Angarita ‘07

Shane McGinley Clauser ‘07

Vijay Krishnan ‘07

Dr. Derya Meral ‘08

Daniela Otxoa Diaz ‘08

Yanina Torres ‘08

Charles Felix ‘08

Dr. Aviva Beckmann ‘08

Minza Zahid ‘08

Ashley Harbin ‘08

Dr. Priyanka Nair-Gupta ‘08

Preeza Shrestha ‘08

Vanessa Lopera ‘08

Bobby Ayala ‘09

Abra Berkowitz ‘09

Adekemi Egunsola ‘09

Felix Forster ‘09

Fadomba Matturi ‘09

Steffanie Ohms Elder ‘09

Serdar Benderli ‘09

Mariana Bazan ‘09

Shafayat Chowdhury ‘09

Torin Perez ‘09

Eva Neykova ‘10

Samriddhi Malla ‘10

Hannah Estifanos ‘10

Jeffrey Zimmer ‘10

Brook Estifanos ‘11

Nafis Hasan ‘11

Brad Hennessy ‘11

Franco Abott ‘11

Kristi Kostallari ‘11

Dr. Ioana Marin ‘11

Nicholas Stacey ‘11

Martin Melendro Torres ‘11

Brian Asingia ‘12

Peter Moody ‘12

Ryan Shroff ‘12

Christopher S. Kelly ‘13

Jason Ewer ‘13

Michael Pinkard ‘14

Dana Lapides ‘15

Wah Loon Keng ‘16

Tien Vinh Tran ‘16

Kemal Tezer Dilsiz ‘17