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Woke ASU Honors College Faculty Recruited Students To Oppose Conservative Speaker Event

February 8, 2023

By Corinne Murdock |

Arizona State University (ASU) Barrett Honors College faculty recruited students to oppose an upcoming event featuring conservative speakers. These educators stand opposed to their colleagues that organized the event, the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development.

The opposed speakers are Charlie Kirk, founder and president of activist group Turning Point USA; Dennis Prager, radio talk show host and founder of educational group PragerU; and Robert Kiyosaki, bestselling author of the top-selling personal finance book of all time and PragerU presenter. The trio are scheduled to speak Wednesday on “Health, Wealth, and Happiness.” 

In a letter to Barrett Honors College Dean Tara Williams last Wednesday, the faculty members called Prager and Kirk “purveyors of hate,” and accused them of attacking women, “people of color,” LGBTQ+ individuals, and democracy-based institutions. The faculty dismissed Kiyosaki as a debunked sales schemer. 

“By platforming and legitimating their extreme anti-intellectual and anti-democratic views, Barrett will not be furthering the cause of democratic exchange at ASU, but undermining it in ways that could further marginalize the most vulnerable members of our community,” read the letter. “Our collective efforts to promote Barrett as a home for inclusive excellence demand we distance ourselves from the hate that these provocateurs hope to legitimate by attaching themselves to Barrett’s name.”

The faculty also accused the trio of advancing an “anti-intellectual agenda” because they have challenged the necessity of a college education, the hypocrisy over the use of the “n-word,” the problematic nature of Black History Month, the acceptance of transgenderism and gender ideology, and the integrity of the 2020 election.

Although ASU hasn’t indicated that it would cancel the event, AZ Free News was informed that on-campus marketing of the event was removed following the Barrett faculty complaints.

39 of 47 Barrett faculty members signed onto the letter: Abby Loebenberg, Abby Wheatley, Adam Rigoni, Alex Young, April Miller, Benjamin Fong, Christiane Fontinha de Alcantara, Dagmar Van Engen, David Agruss, Don Fette, Elizabeth Meloy, Gabriella Soto, Georgette Briggs, Irina Levin, Jacquie Scott, Jennifer Brian, John Lynch, Joseph Foy, Joseph O’Neil, Laura Jakubczak, Laurie Stoff, Lisa Barca, Mathew Sandoval, Matthew Voorhees, Michael Ostling, Mina Suk, Nilanjana Bhattacharjya, Peter Schmidt, Phillip Cortes, Rachel Fedlock, Rebecca Soares, Robert Mack, Sarah Graff, and Taylor Hines.

Levin, a Barrett faculty affiliate, told The State Press, ASU’s student-run newspaper, that she was shocked that ASU would allow this event and claimed that the guest speakers weren’t aligned with Barrett principles. 

Ostling claimed that their signatures each represented different reasons for opposing Kirk, Prager, and Kiyosaki on campus, and that they weren’t advocating for the cancellation of the event. 

“I believe these speakers represent ideas that go against the principles of the ASU charter that stands for inclusivity and not exclusivity,” said Ostling. 

Multiple faculty members from the letter liked tweets that accused Prager and Kirk of being “white nationalists.”

On her since-deleted Twitter account, Miller, an Honors Faculty Fellow, accused ASU of “[selling] its soul to the ‘highest’ bidder.”

“When your college sells its soul to the ‘highest’ bidder, this is the result. What an outrageous embarrassment. Money over ethics, donors before students,” tweeted Miller.

Miller also emailed the condemnation letter to her students. Although Miller alleged in the email that she supported free speech in universities, even controversial speech, she said she opposed controversial speakers that donate to the college. Miller further claimed that Prager, Kirk, and Kiyosaki held beliefs that were beyond the scope permitting ideological debate.

“This is not a simple issue of partisan politics; these two speakers are known for, among other things, spreading: exceedingly hateful rhetoric that is harmful to many marginalized communities; anti-public education platforms; and health/medical disinformation— all of which go against the values and purposes of a post-secondary institution like Barrett and ASU,” wrote Miller.

Other Barrett faculty reportedly imposed similar pressure on their students. However, students have been reluctant to produce these documents; AZ Free News received information that students have expressed fear of retaliation from Barrett faculty and their peers if they express dissenting opinions or support for the event.

Young, also an Honors Faculty Fellow, tweeted that only those with a certain level of competence were allowed to engage in discourse — implying that this caveat disqualifies Prager, Kirk, or Kiyosaki. Young then claimed that those who issued public response to the letter had incited threats against their jobs and lives.

In a separate tweet, Young explained that the faculty members behind the condemnation letter were upset they hadn’t been consulted about the speaker selection for the event. 

Prager’s educational organization, PragerU, publicized the Barrett faculty condemnation letter on Friday. 

Additionally, three ASU professors issued a response letter via The Daily Wire to the Barrett Honors condemnation letter. These three professors were Jonathan Barth, associate history professor and associate director of the ASU Center for American Institutions; Donald Critchlow, history professor and director of the ASU Center for American Institutions; and Owen Anderson, philosophy and religious studies professor.

Barth, Critchlow, and Anderson said they didn’t support the suppression of speech advocated by the Barrett faculty members. They noted that ASU President Michael Crow has a long history of supporting intellectual diversity, even amid opposition. The three men said that the Barrett faculty were intentionally intimidating their peers and students, thereby destroying the free and open exchange of ideas. 

“Faculty letters like the one condemning Dennis Prager and Charlie Kirk reinforce campus conformity and function as a not-so-subtle way to intimidate and silence would-be dissenters among the faculty and student body,” stated the trio. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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