University of Chicago Students Demand Steve Bannon Talk Be Shut Down

Steve Bannon
The Associated Press

Students at the University of Chicago are protesting an upcoming campus event featuring former Breitbart News Executive Chairman Steve Bannon.

Last week, University of Chicago business professor Luigi Zingales invited Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, to speak on campus to discuss the issues of immigration and globalization. Although the event doesn’t yet have a date, student protesters have already begun to express their desire to shut it down.

In a Facebook post, Zingales explained the motivations behind his decision to invite Bannon to campus. Zingales explained that although he doesn’t agree with Bannon’s worldview, he believes that engaging with him could be an effective way to understand some of the emerging issues facing America and the rest of the world.

As a university our primary mission is to form new citizens of the world. As a business school our primary mission is to form new business leaders of the world. I can hardly think of a more important issue for new citizens and business leaders of the world than the backlash against globalization and immigration that is taking place not just in America, but in all the Western World. At the University of Chicago, we have some of the best economic minds of the planet. It is our civic duty to engage them in finding the causes of this backlash and in trying to address them. Whether you agree with him or not (and I personally do not), Mr. Bannon has come to interpret and represent this backlash in America. For this reason, I invited Mr. Bannon to a debate on these issues with our faculty. I firmly believe that the current problems in America cannot be solved by demonizing who think differently, but by addressing the causes of their dissatisfaction. Hate cannot be defeated by hate, but only by reason.

Last week, students held a protest, demanding that administrators shut down the event. 

The University of Chicago released a statement last week affirming the importance of academic freedom.

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.

Any recognized student group, faculty group, University department or individual faculty member can invite a speaker to campus. We recognize that there will be debate and disagreement over this event; as part of our commitment to free expression, the University supports the ability of protesters and invited speakers to express a wide range of views.

The university has consistently supported free speech rights. In the fall of 2017, incoming freshmen received a letter from Dean Jay Ellison on the topic. In the letter, Dean Ellison stated, “At the University of Chicago, we insist that all faculty and students are free to debate, disagree, and argue, without fear of being silenced.”

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