Learning what’s important

The University of St. Thomas has yet another speaker controversy on its clumsy hands. Just months after inviting, then disinviting, then re-inviting Archbishop Desmond Tutu (he respectfully declined) to speak at the school, the University has now blocked another speaker from appearing: author and pro-life advocate Star Parker.

Enough people (see the links above) are covering this latest development that I really didn’t feel the need to cover it here. That doesn’t mean, however, that I didn’t have an unction to apply the needle a little bit to the young woman who works for me as I left the office today. She’s a St. Thomas grad. “What’s with your old school and it’s treatment of would-be guest speakers, anyway?” I asked. She wasn’t up on the news of the day (I work her too hard for her to peek at headlines).

“What now?” she asked, with a roll of her eyes.

I gave her the quick rundown, and wondered why a Catholic university would block a pro-life advocate from appearing on its campus, especially after the Tutu hoo-doo. “Don’t they have PR people over there, or at least someone who’ll tell them that if you try to play in the middle of the road you get run down by both sides?”

I don’t have her exact quote, but she showed the kind of keen mind and insight that caused me to hire her in the first place. The gist of it was, “It’s not the politics, it’s the money.” She said she used to work the phone bank on campus, calling alumni to ask for money. “So many times I’d call and get someone who was angry about this speaker or that speaker who had come, or a book that was selected for a class, and they’d say they weren’t going to give any money because of that.” She finished by saying something to the effect that St. Thomas was more concerned about the money drying up rather than, say, the same thing happening to free speech.

Wow — here I was, thinking that St. Thomas wasn’t interested in principle, when it turns out that principle and interest are pretty important to them after all!

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