Lewis Center and Freedom of Speech at Arizona State University
Arizona State University is committed to, in practice, not just rhetoric, all things that support free speech and all of its components.
ASU employee Ann Atkinson has lost the distinction between feelings and fact in her recent comments about what prompted her loss of employment at the T.W. Lewis Center at Arizona State University.
Ms. Atkinson’s current job at the university will no longer exist after June 30 because the donor who created and funded the center decided to terminate his donation. Unfortunate, but hardly unprecedented. ASU is working to determine how we can support the most impactful elements of the center without that external funding.
Ms. Atkinson’s frustration with those who would suppress freedom of speech is one we share. But her conclusion that ASU students are the “losers” misses the obvious point: the “Health, Wealth and Happiness” event hosted by Robert Kiyosaki, Dennis Prager and Charlie Kirk was a success. Speakers came, they spoke, and more than 600 people attended.
Ms. Atkinson is correct that this event was opposed by many faculty, students and others who are part of the ASU community. She is right to say that this opposition was vocal. This is not uncommon in a university setting.
As a public university, ASU is committed to free, robust and uninhibited sharing of ideas among all members of the university’s community. The university values and adheres to the First Amendment to the U.S Constitution, which provides freedom of speech. These values apply to the students and other members of our community who helped to organize the speaker program -- and to the faculty who expressed strong opinions about the event.
The university acts in this manner for any and all events and it is precisely why, as Ms. Atkinson correctly notes, ASU has been awarded the “green light” by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression and that it adopted the Chicago Principles, which affirm the “free, robust and uninhibited sharing of ideas among all members of the university’s community.”