Voices of dissent raised against speaker
by Luis Gómez
Co-Editor in Chief
Roger Stone, the notable Trump advisor and Nixon acolyte, appeared on campus for an October 10th speaking event sponsored by College Republicans.
Stone, who counts among his titles political strategist, advisor to Donald Trump, and Richard Nixon’s scheduler, was invited to speak on campus by College Republicans, in an attempt to “give students the opportunity to view the 2016 Presidential Election through the lens of a political insider.”
Stone also has a history of controversial comments, many of which frequently veer into racist, sexist, or anti-Semetic territory. Many student organizations reacted negatively to Stone’s speaking engagement, even before the controversial figure had arrived on campus. SAGES’ Lincoln Center chapter released a statement in advance of the talk, which called Stone “a known racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic former Trump advisor” and “fascist collaborator” referring to Stone’s past comments and his lobbying work for Mobutu Sese Seko, the longtime military dictator of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. College Republicans posted a response to SAGES on Facebook prior to the event, stating “While we recognize that Mr. Stone is a controversial figure, we reject the claim that he is a ‘fascist collaborator.’”
At the talk itself, held in a packed Keating Hall auditorium, Stone spoke to a mixed crowd made up of enthusiastic supporters and vocal detractors. At several points, Stone was interrupted by a shouted word of protest, while his adherents cheered loudly at his responses to student objections.
Sofia Dadap, a member of SAGES and Fordham Students United, said in a statement, “I believe that the presence of student dissenters was important because if no one had been there to ask about his well documented history as a racist and a bigot then he would never have had to lie about them–or at least, no one would have directly challenged him about those lies. College Republicans should stop pretending that student dissenters were asking Father McShane to disallow him from campus but in fact questioning their decision to bring him to Fordham.”
Marcella Leonard, President of the Jewish Student Organization, said that “Allowing [Stone’s] rhetoric onto our campus is not allowing free speech. It is allowing hate speech. The latter is too often wrongly given a platform in the name of the former. The fact that the event was on campus, felt to me a gross infringement on my home, which is consistently touting the merits of diversity and inclusion.”
In addition to Stone himself, many organizations focused on a perceived lack of oversight and clarity from the University regarding guest speakers at on-campus events.
A representative from Students for Environmental Awareness & Justice (SEAJ) stated “It has become glaringly apparent to me that there are inexcusable inconsistencies in the screening process and policy regarding performers and speakers. The University must either only accept speakers who truly uphold Jesuit values, whatever that means, or accept any speaker with any background. It is reprehensible to allow Roger Stone to speak if the University does not allow hip hop artsists to perform at Spring Weekend.”
The editorial board of The Fordham Ram published an article condemning Stone’s talk, and College Republicans invitation to host him, saying, “Fordham College Republicans are abusing the right to free speech in order to simply provoke members of our community. Such an invitation by the Fordham College Republicans goes beyond politics and partisanship. This goes beyond being a proponent of free speech.”
College Republicans responded in a follow-up editorial, saying that “While Stone is a deeply flawed character, he also forced students to talk. He was the spark to a much needed debate. The overarching goal of the new administration of the College Republicans is not to force provocation, but to encourage dialogue.”
Notable as well was the response from USG. In advance of Stone’s appearance, College Republicans established a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Mr. Stone’s speaker fee. After raising over $3,500 on the GoFundMe page, though, College Republicans closed down the campaign. According to The Fordham Ram, the remaining portion of Mr. Stone’s speaker fee was paid by a College Republicans alum, Joseph Campagna.
In response, USG is launching an investigation into the events leading up to the event, to determine if College Republicans violates a portion of their own constitution, or fell afoul of USG policy regarding guest speakers.
USG also tabled a resolution that would allow for speakers that do not align with Jesuit values, as current policy holds. This would allow for a broader range of controversial speakers and Spring Weekend performers. USG President Brian Reardon did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Most prominent was a statement from Father McShane condemning Stone’s appearance. While McShane highlighted the right of Stone to appear on campus, he stated “Much of what Mr. Stone has offered is in stark contrast to the Jesuit notion of men and women for others, and at odds with our ideal of care for the whole person. This comes not from a conservative nor liberal point of view, but from the standpoint of common human decency. “
Mr. Stone directly called out Father McShane’s statement in his remarks, claiming that the President did not know his true values and stating that “It’s sad that [the University] has taken the twisted, out of context words of the media and made it ‘truth’.”
The President’s Office was remarkably terse in its response. Bob Howe, Assistant Vice President of Communications for the University, stated simply “We don’t think Father McShane’s statement requires any amplification.”