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Today is the beginning of Banned Books Week, and so it’s an appropriate time to report on speakers who are banned by colleges because of their past writings. This week, Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania decided to disinvite Ellen Goodman from giving a speech on campus next month.
The right-wing Cardinal Newman Society celebrated the news of censorship, and quoted a statement from a spokesperson for Saint Francis: “Saint Francis University has decided to postpone the Furlong Lecture series scheduled for October 12 and cancel the appearance of Ms. Ellen Goodman. After careful consideration, the University felt Ms. Goodman’s body of work has reflected statements that are not in close enough alignment with some Catholic teachings and with the values and mission of the University as required for an event of this stature on the Saint Francis campus.”
Saint Francis apparently changed its mind after intense lobbying by the Cardinal Newman Society and its supporters, which attacked Goodman in an earlier post for being pro-choice.
Ellen Goodman wrote this response on Sept. 20 to Saint Francis Provost Wayne Powel’s email about cancelling the speech:
Dear Dr. Powel,
You can imagine how stunned I was to receive your email. I have been making speeches for over 35 years—including many on Catholic campuses. Never before have I been cancelled for any reason, let alone for my beliefs.
It is clear from your letter that it is my support of women’s right to choose abortion that is at issue. This is a position I share with over half the country. Am I to believe that the gag order applies to all other potential visitors who are pro-choice including for example, the President?
It is especially ironic since the lecture I prepared for this event was to promote civility. I called it, as your press release noted, “A Civil Tongue” and wrote about my passionate belief that the country needs to move from polarized food fight politics and media to a more civil and modulating voice.
Imagine my surprise at having this view not align with the “values and mission of the university.” Imagine my disappointment at having my plea for civility returned with a pie in the face, a salvo in the very same food fight.
Kelly Rhodes was both gracious and eager in her invitation. I can only imagine her humiliation at finding that her university does not uphold the values of academic freedom. And what about your faculty, confronted with the reality that the university puts such strictures on who and what may be heard?
St. Francis takes great pride in its academic success. But academic freedom?
I have no doubt that you will honor your financial commitment to me but what’s also at stake is honoring your commitment to your faculty and students .
With great disappointment,