Faculty members of the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University have sent a letter to the honors college dean to express their anger over an upcoming event featuring Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk and PragerU founder Dennis Prager, among others.
"We, the undersigned Barrett faculty, write to condemn the 'Health, Wealth, and Happiness' event the TW Lewis Center for Personal Development is scheduled to host on February 8th, 2023, and to express a vote of no confidence in the leadership of the Lewis Center," the letter began.
According to Turning Point USA, the event will take place at ASU’s Gammage Auditorium, and will feature conservative speakers Kirk and Prager, as well as personal financial coach, Robert Kiyosaki.
"We do not take this position lightly, as all of us believe Barrett should be a place where our students encounter a broad diversity of voices and viewpoints," the letter to Barrett Honors College Dean Tara Williams continued, with faculty stating that "this event marks the culmination of a long history of choices made by the leadership of the Lewis Center, the sum of which demonstrate a vision for the center that runs contrary to the core values of the Barrett community."
The letter states that the Barrett faculty "applaud" the work of their colleagues in developing the Lewis Center’s academic curriculum, "(often in spite of the Lewis Center leadership’s efforts to curtail their academic freedom)," but "our concerns about the intellectual value of Lewis Center’s public programming are long standing."
They said that their concerns over the appearance of "Kiyosaki, whose key claims in his bestselling book have been widely debunked and whose public speaking engagements on wealth generation have been exposed as sales schemes, at the 2/8 event are in this vein."
Referencing Prager and Kirk, the faculty continued by stating, "our objections to two of the scheduled speakers at the 'Health, Wealth, and Happiness' event, however, exceed those previous worries by an order of magnitude."
The faculty members said that Prager and Kirk "are purveyors of hate who have publicly attacked women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, as well as the institutions of democracy, including our public institutions of higher education."
The letter continued on to provide an overview into Prager and Kirk’s "most recent bigoted and anti-democratic public positions."
"These people create an echo chamber of media articles that agree with their wokeness," Kiyosaki said in respose, "and then use those as evidence for cancelling an event. And they have the gaul to claim they are stewards of open dialogue by attempting to block speakers who publicly disagree with them."
The examples cited by faculty include Kirk’s book "The College Scam," saying that these speakers "regularly employ anti-trans slurs on air and have suggested that gay people are incapable of thinking 'as a person,'" stating that comments on the left undoing the nature of a woman wanting to get married in anti women’s rights, and Turning Point USA’s "Professor Watchlist."
Additionally, the faculty note, "what kind of impression does it [give] our BIPOC students and potential students to see that during Black History Month Barrett is hosting two white nationalist provocateurs who have decried the social prohibition on using the n-word and called for the cancellation of Black History Month?"
According to PragerU, as of February 2, 37 out of 47 Barrett Honors College faculty have signed the petition letter.
According to The State Press, ASU’s newspaper, multiple faculty members said they found out about the event through social media instead of being notified of each speaker series and event hosted by the honors college.
"My initial response was shock," said Irina Levin, a faculty affiliate at Barrett. "...I do not think that the decision to host these speakers at ASU's premier venue is in congruence with Barrett's principles as an institution."
Michael Ostling, a religious studies scholar at Barrett, told The State Press that the event was organized without the consultation of professors or students.
"I want to make it clear that each signature on this petition was for a different reason," said Ostling. "...I believe these speakers represent ideas that go against the principles of the ASU charter that stands for inclusivity and not exclusivity."
Ostling said the petition is aimed at condemning the event, not at having the event canceled.
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