ASU Honors Professors: Free Speech For Inclusive Figures Only

ASU Honors Professors: Free Speech For Inclusive Figures Only

By Corinne Murdock |

Three of the Arizona State University (ASU) professors behind a campaign to oppose an event featuring conservative speakers argue that only inclusive persons belong on university campuses.

In an opinion piece published in the Arizona Republic, the three professors argue that those who reject inclusive ideals were the real threat to debate and therefore should be barred from participating in democratic exchange. The trio — Barrett Honors College professors Jenny Brian, Michael Ostling, and Alex Young — noted that they weren’t opposed to all conservative speakers, referencing a 2018 event featuring conservative legal scholar Robert George.

Earlier this year, the three professors signed onto a letter petitioning Barrett Honors College leadership to oppose an event featuring conservative personalities Dennis Prager, Charlie Kirk, and Robert Kiyosaki. The trio insisted that their original letter wasn’t an attempt to cancel the event, but merely a means of expressing consternation. AZ Free News learned that on-campus marketing of the controversial event was removed following the complaint letter. 37 of 47 Barrett faculty members signed onto the letter.

“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.”

In terms of reported attempts to recruit students to boycott the event, the three professors denied the charges. The trio added that they held an alternative “teach in” event preceding the T.W. Lewis Center event: “Defending the Public University.”

The three professors also denied responsibility for the dissolution of the T.W. Lewis Center and dismissal of its executive director, Ann Atkinson.

“As Barrett faculty, we see a brighter future for public higher education. We will continue to fight for a university ‘measured not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes,’” stated the trio. “The ‘antagonistic cooperation’ of democratic exchange in Arizona’s public universities deserves to be defended against those who reject the inclusive ideals that make it possible.”

The letter was met with immediate response from a vocal critic of the Barrett Honors faculty opposed to the T.W. Lewis Center event: ASU humanities professor Owen Anderson. He criticized the three professors’ opinion piece as a poor display of logic and reason.

“[W]hat was their argument? They never gave one (not one that got above informal fallacies),” wrote Anderson. “No professor would give a good grade to a paper like this from a student. How can a professor who thinks this way teach others?”

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