Faculty Meeting Addresses Controversial Speakers

President Brian Casey addressed the faculty at their monthly meeting, which emphasized Colgate’s future plans for success and sustaining the University’s core values, on November 5.

Casey began by providing clarity on the status of a controversial lecture.

Professor John Cheney-Lippold from the University of Michigan had been invited to speak by the Film and Media Studies Department. Many students opposed Cheney-Lippold’s talk and arrival on campus due to recent controversy surrounding his refusal to write a letter of recommendation for a student wanting to study abroad in Israel.

Originally, the Film and Media Studies Department was working with Cheney-Lippold to postpone the lecture and eventually set a new date. Casey said that Colgate plans to adjust his visit to campus, out of support for the students who are distressed over the planned visit.

Casey also discussed the controversy surrounding the Alan Dershowitz lecture, suggesting that the faculty take this event and learn from it. He stressed the importance of ensuring that Colgate is a welcoming place of academic freedom and freedom of expression, and said he plans to take student speaker recommendations and advice into further consideration. Casey said the faculty plans to hold a panel, beginning early next week, to discuss these events and ensure that students feel that their voices are heard and move forward positively.

Faculty present offered their responses to Casey on the issue.

“It’s an ongoing issue and, in general, I think it’s being handled very well here at Colgate and I think given more time, there could have been more discussion, but I feel that what did happen was totally appropriate,” Associate University Librarian Steve Black said.

Casey announced a structured agenda to achieve six main categorical objectives for improving Colgate’s overall presence and status as a university.

In communication with the Board of Trustees, faculty, students, staff and alumni, Colgate plans to improve academic enhancement, residential life, athletics, campus plans, admissions and financial conditions.

Casey said that in order to support these objectives, specifically the renovation of Olin Hall, upkeep of buildings and proper allocation of funds to the different areas, a campaign will attempt to increase Colgate’s endowment in order to ensure financial support and feasibility for the aimed projects.

The faculty and administration are working in tandem to incorporate students into more decisions, as well as do more of their own research on speakers. Despite faculty and student concern, the administration does not want to elevate tensions, but rather hopes to provide a stronger education in response to controversial issues of academic freedom and freedom of expression, Casey said.

“I’ve been here at Colgate a little less than two years and I came from an institution where the administration and the faculty did not cooperate well with one another,” Black said. “So being at an institution where the President chairs the meeting and has open collegial discussion with the faculty is very refreshing and something I enjoy very much about being here.”

Contact Nicole Dienst at [email protected].