After year-long contention over how, or if, to invite right-wing voices to campus, the college kicked off its “Conservative Speaker Series” on Thursday, Oct. 12 with a lecture on conservative economics.
The event is the first of a three-part series organized by assistant professor Tylor Orme on conservative academics slated to present at the college. Orme teaches the class “The Right Stuff: Diversity of Conservative Thought and Policy.”
Thursday’s event, titled “F.A. Hayek’s Modern Legacy,” was led by Creighton University economics professor Colin O’Reilly.
Over the two-hour-long event, O’Reilly examined the political discourse around free-market economics using a presentation about 20th century economist Friedrich A. Hayek and his economic principles.
“Through the talk I was hoping to both inform people about Hayek’s thoughts, which tie into conservative thought, and to build a bridge in between that world view and what might be considered a more liberal worldview,” O’Reilly said. “It is important to challenge the status quo of any institution with opposing views, I think.”
About 25 people attended the lecture, including Orme and students in his class.
“My main goal with this series is to illustrate the wide diversity of ideas that fall under the umbrella of ‘conservative,’” Orme said, “It is easy to think that we know what a conservative thinks, but really the concept is quite broad.”
Though “The Right Stuff” class was started by Orme, he said the Conservative Speaker Series was not entirely his idea.
Orme said the initiative was inspired by the climate at Emerson in fall 2016, where the conservative community voice said they felt largely unrepresented on a campus that leans toward liberal politics. At the same time, he said he was developing a course in modern conservative thought. The two ideas happened to overlap, and led him to arrange a meeting with college administration, he said.
A part of the discussion last fall included a petition by junior marketing communications student Erik Picone, advocating for right-wing speakers to appear on campus.
Picone said he met with several Emerson community members who felt their Republican ideas are silenced on campus. Though Picone is aware of the ongoing Conservative Speaker Series, he said it does not include any names on his list.
“I think this [series] is more intimate with right-wing locally-sourced speakers,” he said, “I don’t personally know who they are. I’m just glad there is someone coming in to talk.”
Sophomore journalism major Max Cohen was a conservative voice on campus during “Who Has the Right to Speak?,” a debate that took place in the spring 2017 semester, when students of color rejected the idea of alt-right Milo Yiannopoulos presenting on campus.
When asked about the “Conservative Speaker Series,” Cohen said he had never heard of it.
“I wish they had been more open about this,” Cohen said, “Glad we get emails about the ‘Teach-In On Race’ from Lee Pelton five times a week and just one mention about [the Conservative Speaker Series] in some newsletter. That seems fair.”
Cohen said he thinks speakers listed for these events were lesser known, so that there isn’t any unrest among the mostly liberal campus.
“I’ve never even heard of the speakers listed for this series,” Cohen said. “I’m sure these people are great, but big names get more attention toward issues. In this case, conservative issues,” he said.
Sophomore Lip McDonald said they do not think Emerson is mindful of the impact it has on certain groups of students when inviting conservative speakers to campus.
“I feel like diversity of views is important but I also feel like a lot of those views that are held are inherently oppressive toward the people that Emerson claims to love to uplift, like LGBT voices or voices of people of color,” McDonald said. “Even being fiscally conservative is inherently oppressive to people who have historically been disenfranchised.”
The next two events in the series are focused on economics and education, taking place on Nov. 2 and Nov. 30, respectively.
As of now, only the three conservative speakers are slated to present at Emerson over the course of this semester, Orme said.
“I hope that with good attendance and student interest I would be able to continue to highlight diversity of thought on campus,” he said, “either by continuing this speaker series, or introducing other opportunities for a wide range of thinkers to be on campus.”