DePaul University’s president has resigned, despite a contract extending through 2016, in the wake of campus unrest following a May speech from firebrand gay conservative Milo Yiannopoulus.
President Dennis H. Holtschneider’s resignation letter makes no mention of the controversy, simply stating that “it’s best for DePaul if I step aside.” He wrote that the decision had been “underway since my Christmas retreat” and that he’d informed the board of his forthcoming departure in March, adding that he did so to allow the university to avoid a situation where DePaul would have “one president define the next strategic direction for another president to manage.”
But earlier this month, a prominent DePaul law professor wrote in the student newspaper that Holtschneider should step down or be fired. He claimed that by allowing Yiannopoulos to speak, “the president has betrayed [marginalized] students and has undoubtedly done lasting harm to their perceptions of DePaul.”
At Yiannopoulos’s May 24 event, protestors stormed the stage, eventually shutting down the event and capturing national attention. Though DePaul’s college Republicans put down a $1,000 security deposit, administrators reportedly told police officers to “stand and passively watch,” one participant wrote in the Huffington Post.
Holtschneider, who was in France during the event, initially condemned the interruption, adding that while speakers like Yiannopoulos may be “entertainers and self-serving provocateurs,” all speakers on campus merit a “respectful hearing.”
The DePaul University Black Leadership Coalition pushed back, saying that “the community of African descent at DePaul is deeply offended and disappointed” with Holtschneider’s reaction.
They said Holtschneider was “disconnected and out of touch” with black students, adding that they were “not confident in his ability to effectively resolve problems” affecting them, though they did not explicitly call for his resignation.
The Coalition also claimed the offending Yiannopoulus event was “merely the tip of the iceberg and symptomatic of larger racial tensions at DePaul.” They listed several examples, including not only a noose found on campus on May 26 but also sidewalk chalk paintings stating “Build a Wall” and “Blue Lives Matter,” as well as oil paintings displayed on the Quad in support of Donald Trump.
Over the next eight days, some DePaul students continued to protest, decrying what they called “hate speech” and eventually staging a sit-in.
Finally, Holtschneider caved to the pressure, apologizing in a June 2 campus-wide email for “the harm that was unleashed by a speaker whose intent was to ignite racial tensions and demean those most marginalized, both in our society and at DePaul.”
On Monday, Holtschneider announced he’d be leaving DePaul, adding that he was not departing to take another position elsewhere. Holtschneider forwarded Heat Street‘s request for comment to the DePaul communications office, which referred us to the news release.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and Independent Women’s Forum.