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Hampshire College cancels gun-rights speech because sponsor didn’t say it might provoke ‘intense debate’

UPDATED

‘We realized that the student application was not sufficiently complete’

Antonia Okafor is speaking about “Female empowerment and the Second Amendment” at Mount Holyoke College Thursday night, but Wednesday night she was supposed to address Hampshire College on the same subject.

She didn’t get to, because the administration canceled her speech hours before.

An administration spokesperson told The College Fix that her sponsor left off some important information from the venue application – namely that Okafor’s speech might provoke “intense debate.”

Okafor caused a social-media furor against the private liberal arts school in Massachusetts by tweeting early Wednesday evening that Hampshire, which had an American flag-related kerfuffle a year ago, “has just now cancelled my speech scheduled in 2 hours.”

She said her Second Amendment topic had been deemed “too controversial.” Okafor later did a live video from a hotel room explaining what happened.

The spokesperson gave The Fix a statement that said the college “sincerely apologizes” for canceling the speech, but denied that the speech subject, content or Okafor herself was the reason:

We canceled the event when we realized that the student application was not sufficiently complete. It lacked the necessary details we require in advance of any event, particularly one that might draw large audiences and intense debate, so we can allot the appropriate resources to staff and support the event.

The administration will reach out to Okafor and her organizers to “discuss this process and consider options for rescheduling her visit to campus,” the statement read. It was also posted on the college website.

The Fix has requested from the administration a point-by-point rundown of what necessary information the organizers left off, and what objective criteria they could have consulted to judge whether the event could provoke “intense debate.”

Lone Conservative posted an email timestamped 4:30 p.m. that was sent to event sponsor Junoon, the South Asian and international students organization on campus.

Carolyn Koske Strycharz, the interim director of campus leadership and activities, told club leader Rahim Hirani that the “Contract Request Form that was submitted was denied because it did not have complete information about the presenter”:

Also, an event where someone is coming to campus to speak about the second amendment [sic], 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.

Had there been a full description of the presenter and their background given in the event submission, [Campus Leadership & Activities] would have pended [sic] the event for further information.

Koske Strycharz also questioned why Junoon would sponsor a gun-rights event “when it is not associated with the group’s mission statement?”

Hampshire “cannot assume the risk of this person coming to campus without additional measures put into place,” she said, declaring the event “cancelled.”

Koske Strycharz’s office, however, explicitly approved the event in an email two days earlier, also posted by Lone Conservative. It listed the event date, location and reservation number.

Read the full email at Lone Conservative.

UPDATE: The administration emails to the sponsor – approving the event and then announcing the event would be canceled – has been added.

MORE: ‘Alternative space’ created for students who don’t like Antonia Okafor

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

Add to the Discussion

  • Hazel Nuts

    “Controversial” = Anything liberals disagree with.

  • Art O’Leary

    That’s the college where flying the US Flag was controversial last year…