by John S. Buckley
James Madison University recently showed how it ought to be for a conservative student group to sponsor a speaker on a controversial topic and be received with respect for principles of free speech and open inquiry. Bravo to JMU students, the JMU college administration, and the Harrisonburg community for setting such a good example.
On Wednesday evening, April 26, the JMU Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter sponsored a notable right-wing speaker, Liz Wheeler, on the “ideology of transgenderism.” She’s a prominent speaker among conservative student groups on college campuses and she doesn’t pull punches, that’s for sure.
Although the word on campus was that the transgender community at JMU and in Harrisonburg was vociferously urging a boycott of the event and a small, colorfully outfitted, and sign-holding group showed up outside the hall where the talk was to be held, the whole event — inside, outside, and in-between was entirely civil. Everyone involved deserves credit for how it played out. The room was packed and late arrivers, I’m told, were turned away. Judging from the questions put to Ms. Wheeler after the talk, the audience was not all conservatives.
As if anticipating disruption, or at least aiming to head it off at the pass, the program began with remarks from an officer of campus security. I imagine he wouldn’t have said what he did without a green light from the college powers-that-be. He said disruptive behavior would absolutely not be tolerated; he cited some provision or another of the campus code of behavior; and he assured the audience that a second violation on anyone’s part would definitely result in removal and a citation.
His comments either did the job or weren’t needed in the first place. I sensed it was the latter.