Yale student asks Buckley Program to honor Chelsea Manning

A student at Yale University recently called upon the William F. Buckley Jr. Program to extend an invitation to Chelsea Manning for its upcoming “Disinvitation Dinner.”

The program hosts an annual Disinvitation Dinner, during which a speaker who was previously disinvited from another university is honored and gives a speech to the campus community.

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Citing Manning’s recent disinvitation from a fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School, Yale senior Aaron Sibarium suggests in a column for The Yale Daily News that inviting Manning would be an excellent way to show that “intellectual diversity is nonpartisan.”  

“What better way to stand on principle—and above politics—than to invite Chelsea Manning to the dinner? Her presence would send a clear message that intellectual diversity is nonpartisan,” Sibarium writes, adding that it “would shatter Buckley’s reputation as a front for campus conservatism, elevating the program to an unassailable moral high ground.”

Doing so “would make Yale the free speech capital of the Ivy League,” he argues, noting that it would also “drive Harvard crazy.”

Sibarium, a student fellow with the Buckley Program, told Campus Reform that inviting Manning to speak would help to counter the culture of disinvitations, a growing phenomenon that Sibarium finds especially troubling.

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There have been at least 11 disinvitation attempts in 2017 so far, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), including political scientist Charles Murray, commentator Ben Shapiro, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the Dalai Lama, and U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Regardless of a speaker's politics, Sibarium believes that the practice of cancelling controversial speakers should be opposed.

“There's always going to be someone who objects to the speaker you invite,” he told Campus Reform. “I oppose the heckler's veto under all circumstances.”

Sibarium, a strong supporter of free speech, worries that disinvitations have a negative impact on the exchange of ideas on college campuses, pointing out that "if we start making judgments about which ideas are beyond the pale, and we get those judgments wrong, we could miss out on the right ideas."

Indeed, he said his suggestion has nothing to do with Manning, personally, but rather was conceived out of a basic desire to stand up for the principle of free expression.

“Really, I don't like Chelsea Manning. I doubt she has anything good to contribute,” he noted. “But the problem is if you allow someone to say that Manning doesn't have anything to contribute, therefore she's disinvited, well someone could make the same claim about Charles Murray. It sets a precedent.”

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Each of the last two Disinvitation Dinners hosted by the Buckley Program honored conservatives: Raymond Kelly, a former NYC Police Commissioner, and George F. Will, a well-known conservative commentator, and Sibarium believes that inviting Manning would help to counter the notion that conservative concerns about intellectual diversity only apply to like-minded individuals.

"If only people you invite to the dinner are on the political right, it makes it look as if intellectual diversity is something that only the right cares about,” he explained. “The left should care about intellectual diversity, too.”

Campus Reform reached out to Lauren Nobel, the Founder of the Buckley Program, who stated that the next speaker for the Disinvitation Dinner has already been decided.

When asked whether the Buckley Program would consider honoring Manning at a future dinner, or at any future events, Nobel replied, “no.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen