Tuesday, November 25, 2014

President of St. Norbert's College responds to invite to Gloria Steinem

A reader sent the response they got from St. Norbert's College in regards to the invitation to Gloria Steinem.
Dear x,

I want to thank you for your note about Gloria Steinem and St. Norbert College. I very much appreciate your perspective and that you took time to share it, especially given your connection to SNC. As we have heard, many people share your view and your disappointment. Many others -- even some who self-identify as ardently pro-life -- feel just the opposite. They have told us they think it is good that we have speakers across the ideological spectrum on campus.

I won't go into great detail here, as it's not my purpose to change anyone's mind about convictions that are so deeply held. But I will just say this: We are indeed a Catholic college -- Catholic, yes, but also a college. Too many people, especially in situations like this one, overlook that salient second point. As a college we are literally in the business of ideas. We are not in the business of suppressing them. We trust and expect our students to listen to many perspectives and use their critical thinking to formulate their own positions; that is what it means to be an educated person. Indeed, twice before Ms. Steinem has been on the SNC campus (admittedly, some years ago), and we all seem to have survived -- and I would argue thrived.

Several years ago when the shoe was on the other foot -- when Cardinal George of Chicago made several observations about the gay community that many people (me included, frankly) found hurtful and offensive -- we did not rescind our invitation to him to be that spring's commencement speaker, despite the demands of many hundreds, or even thousands, of people that we do so. That is not how we operate.

Just one final point, for clarification. Ms. Steinem is not making a "speech" or presentation per se. She is here at the invitation of her good friend, the author and social critic bell hooks, who in turn is a good friend of St. Norbert College and who will be in residence on our campus next spring. They have conducted these public "conversations" before, and in the ones I have seen, the issue of abortion has not even arisen. The discussion essentially involves two influential people in our culture looking back over half a century of change in the roles, opportunities and achievements of American women.

Again, thank you for taking time to write, but please note that this will be the final communication from me on this topic.

Sincerely,

Thomas Kunkel
President
St. Norbert College

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