Scholarship News

Student Group Cancels Controversial Debate at University of Chicago


February 6, 2018 12:49 PM
by Susan Dutca-Lovell
A controversial immigration debate was canceled this week by a student group at The University of Chicago - a university which prides itself on protecting free speech, even offensive speech. The Edmund Burke Society, a conservative parliamentary debating society, canceled the debate, claiming it could not assure an orderly event, particularly following the uproar over how the group had described the event.

A controversial immigration debate was canceled this week by a student group at The University of Chicago - a university which "prides itself on protecting free speech, even offensive speech." The Edmund Burke Society, a conservative parliamentary debating society, canceled the debate, claiming it "could not assure an orderly event," particularly following the uproar over how the group had described the event.

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Last week, the Society drew criticism for its whip sheet, a document that advertises debate events. Part of the document read, "if the essence of a nation is its people, allowing foreign bodies to enter is inviting disease into the body politic...meanwhile, chain migration is only as strong as the weakest link; no engineer is worth the drag of a freeloading cousin." One third-year Law student expressed his sentiments, writing, "Dear Burke Society, I take it personally when you compare my family to trash and disease." Other students similarly denounced the publication, claiming it "perpetuates a hostile environment" and planned a silent stand-in protest at the event.

In response, the Burke Society stated that the whip sheet "employs hyperbolic language parodying both sides" and that "it does not present an argument in support of a single conclusion - and it certainly does not announce the views of the Society." The society routinely sets up debates with statements favoring or opposing some policy, according to Inside Higher Ed. The event was canceled over the weekend as the Chairman was not "confident that the event can process as planned without an unacceptably high risk of serious disturbance."

The University of Chicago recently stood by a faculty member who invited Steven Bannon, one of President Trump's former top aides, even though students and faculty members are protesting the event. In a statement, the university maintained that "The University of Chicago is deeply committed to upholding the values of academic freedom, the free expression of ideas, and the ability of faculty and students to invite the speakers of their choice."

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Guadalupe A.  on  2/28/2018 8:05:29 AM commented:

I agree with the student(s) who protested the Burke Society's referring to people as "thrash and disease," it's like having Dump call Mexicans "rapists and murderers." These comments show the prevailing ignorance among a certain group of people, who feel as though through being white, rich and having the privilege of a higher education, they are a better quality of human and not to be judged along the common plebians!

Maria C.  on  2/7/2018 6:57:30 AM commented:

It's quite a shame this debate was canceled because the Chairman was not "confident that the event can process as planned without an unacceptably high risk of serious disturbance". Translation: fear of violence. Why can't people with differing views debate and exchange comments in a venue designed for that very reason in a but let us not forget our Democratic society was made for this and this is the process! It's horrible that our freedom or speech is thwarted here. All people in our country should be thinking long and hard about that.

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