Campus officials had previously approved event; the school subsequently deemed it too ‘controversial’
Hampshire College, a private liberal arts college in Amherst, Massachusetts, cancelled the speaking engagement of a gun rights activist on its campus mere hours before it began, claiming that the speech merited “extra considerations and precautions.”
Antonia Okafor, a Second Amendment activist who recently founded a women’s campus carry advocacy group, was slated to speak on Hampshire’s campus last night, with the college having approved of the event earlier this month. Okafor had been invited to the campus by Hampshire student Rahim Hirani.
“They approved my event on Monday and canceled it two hours before the event,” Hirani told The College Fix via email.
In a livestream broadcast from Okafor’s Twitter feed, Hirani said he approached “campus leadership” about allowing Okafor to come speak on campus, for which he received permission. “I filled out the form,” Hirani said, “I completed all the requirements, I filled out a contract.”
Hirani said he titled the event “Women Empowerment and Second Amendment” and provided a photograph with the application materials featuring Okafor holding two handguns. A Facebook listing of the event features the same photograph.”You can assume,” Hirani said, given the title and the photograph, “that it’s going to be a politically controversial event.”
Hirani said the university approved the speaking engagement. An email obtained by The College Fix shows that the event was approved three days ago, on December 4.
“Just two hours ahead of the event,” Hirani said in the livestream, “I received an email saying, ‘We have to cancel this event because we deem it too controversial and we are receiving calls from students and staff and professors and they are upset about it.”
That email, sent by Campus Leadership and Activities director Carolyn Koske Strycharz and obtained by The Fix, states that “an event where someone is coming to campus to speak about the second amendment, which is a very controversial subject, would need to have extra considerations and precautions put into place which cannot be done on such short notice.”
“Hampshire cannot assume the risk of this person coming to campus without additional measures put into place,” Strycharz wrote.
It is unclear why the university approved of the event in the first place. The College Fix reached out via phone to Hampshire spokesman John Courtmanche and Joshua Murray on Wednesday night. Both numbers went to voicemail; messages left with both spokesmen were not immediately returned.
On her Twitter feed shortly after the event was cancelled by Hampshire College, Okafor wrote: “The Dean of @hampshirecolg…has just now cancelled my speech scheduled in 2 hours. They deemed my topic: the second amendment… ‘very controversial’.” Okafor did not immediately return a request for comment via email and Twitter direct message.
Okafor is scheduled to speak at Mount Holyoke College on Thursday night. Students at that college created an “alternative space” ahead of her speech in order to foster “productive action…without fueling the messaging of the Right.”
Hampshire College made headlines last year after the school banned the American flag on campus in order to combat “hate-based violence.” The president of the college later claimed that, in removing the flag, the school “acted solely to facilitate much-needed dialogue on our campus about how to dismantle the bigotry that is prevalent in our society.”