OAN’s Brooke Mallory
2:32 PM – Tuesday, June 20, 2023
Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University (ASU) recently dismissed two faculty members for planning an event earlier this year featuring notable Conservative speakers Charlie Kirk, Dennis Prager, and Robert Kiyosaki.
More than 37 members of the Barrett Honors College’s majority far-left faculty organized a petition in February against the event featuring “Rich Dad Poor Dad” author Robert Kiyosaki, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, best-selling author and PragerU founder Dennis Prager, and more.
Barrett Honors College Dean Tara Williams then began limiting marketing for the “Health, Wealth, and Happiness” event, which included the Conservative speakers, while also pushing an opposing event planned by other Barrett Faculty members led by Professor April Miller.
“I do not think that the decision to host these speakers at ASU’s premier venue is in congruence with Barrett’s principles as an institution,” said Irina Levin, an ASU faculty affiliate who opposed the event.
In the letter and petition signed by 37 out of 47, they claimed that the speakers were controversial commentators who stood for white nationalism, bigotry, anti-intellectualism, and anti-democracy.
The letter also cited the George Soros-funded organization Media Matters and other left-wing outlets as its sources.
Professor April Miller, who seemed to be the driving force behind the firing of the faculty members and attempted cancellation of the event, issued the letter and petition to students and other staff, expressing her displeasure and accusing the speakers and school’s event organizers of “spreading hateful rhetoric that is harmful to many marginalized communities, anti-public education platforms, and health/medical disinformation.”
She also tweeted her frustrations regarding the event in February.
Ann Atkinson, executive director of the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development at ASU’s Barrett Honors College, recounted ASU’s decision to terminate her “for organizing an event featuring Charlie Kirk and Dennis Prager” in an op-ed headlined “I Paid for Free Speech at Arizona State.” Ann added, “The message to students was clear: nuance is impossible in the presence of ‘wrongthink’; the offender must either comply or face sweeping castigation.”
The event also resulted in the firing of ASU Gammage Theater’s events operations manager, Lin Blake, who informed Ann that she had been “berated by ASU Gammage leadership for coordinating an event that did not align with the values of ASU Gammage.”
“I thought that Arizona State University, my alma mater and employer, was different from other schools when it came to free speech. In 2011, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression awarded ASU a green light rating for its written policies on freedom of expression. The university happily complied when FIRE suggested it adopt the Chicago Principles and protect the ‘free, robust, and uninhibited sharing of ideas among all members of the University’s community.’ The ASU Barrett Honors College has even been home to heterodox initiatives like the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development, where I served as executive director for the last two years,” Atkinson said.
Despite ASU’s majority faculty rejection and threats, as well as the possible worry of violent radical leftist students on campus, Atkinson reported that the event was a “resounding success,” with 1,500 individuals attending in person and 24,000 watched online.
However, “many students told me they were intimidated by professors into not attending,” Ann said. She also explained how many students voiced to her that they were worried to be seen at the event and begged that the cameras not face the crowd for fear of academic repercussions.
Dennis Prager claimed that he even received death threats as a result of his participation in the event, “forcing municipal and campus police to enact extensive security measures,” Atkinson claimed.
The opposing signers criticized ASU for “platforming and legitimizing” Conservative ideas, referring to Prager and Kirk as “white nationalist provocateurs” whose remarks will “undermine the value of democratic dialogue by marginalizing the school’s most vulnerable students.”
Clay Robinson, an ASU alumnus, also blasted the university for opposing free speech on campus.
“Say what you want about the event itself, but to fire an employee (for doing their job) and to dismantle an entire center because of a mildly controversial event? Unacceptable.”
Arizona State University is the same university where students demonstrated against the Nation of Israel in the past, advocating for a Palestinian invasion.
Another contentious incident at ASU occurred when a number of students staged a near-violent protest against Kyle Rittenhouse’s admission. Students carrying “Death to America” signs attempted to break into ASU President Michael Crow’s office building.
ASU Police had to keep building doors shut as teachers huddled in their own offices for safety.
This is a developing story.
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