Students at the prestigious University of Chicago say that free speech should not apply equally to everyone. The students objected to the school’s Institute of Politics’ invitation to former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. They claim that allowing him to speak “normalizes bigotry” and provides a platform for fascism.
Lewandowski did not join the White House staff but by many accounts remains an influential advisor to the president.
The coalition of students from U of C Resists, Graduate Students United, Students Working Against Prisons, and UChicago Socialists claim that the school’s “commitment to free expression” doesn’t require the institution to host him due to his alleged ties to white supremacists and similarly alleged calls to violence against minority groups and refugees.
They told Campus Reform that they did not call for the University to disinvite him, but rather “encouraged [the person who invited him] to reconsider and rescind the invitation,” as if it makes a difference.
In an open letter to the school, the authors state that Lewandowski courted right-wing extremist groups. They also referred to his alleged “assault” of a woman Breitbart journalist during the campaign, among other things.
“Lewandowski is not the first Trump surrogate to be invited to the Institute of Politics. Last month, Sean Spicer, Trump’s Press Secretary and Director of Communications, spoke in the same series,” it states. “By hosting figures like Spicer and Lewandowski the Institute of Politics suggests that the ideas and ideologies they represent are debatable positions within the range of normal politics.”
Free speech, it claims, should not extend to Trump surrogates.
“It sends a positive signal to white supremacists that they are welcome here,” the students declare. “This exposes the most vulnerable members of our community to even greater risk. That is unacceptable.”
In addition to the letter, the student coalition set up a “Bigotry is not Normal” event to protest Lewandowski, in which over a hundred students claimed to have participated on Wednesday. Students set up protest fliers with statements like “This is not dialogue it’s a war.” [sic]
Speaking to The Chicagoist, IoP Executive Director Steve Edwards says that he respects the students’ right to protest but believes it’s necessary to invite guests who can provide insight into Trump’s campaign, adding that ““people are free to contest, criticize, and protest views expressed on campus so long as they do not obstruct or interfere with the freedom of others to express their views.”