‘Our goal here is to not bring someone that is harmful,’ a member of the student government said
A Chinese immigrant who survived Mao’s Communist regime spoke off campus in Spokane, Washington, a few weeks after the Whitworth University student government rejected a proposal to bring her to the college, alleging her speech would be “harmful.”
The Associated Students of Whitworth University had voted 9 to 4 against hosting the speaker, Xi Van Fleet, at its April 12 meeting, Campus Reform reported.
With that, Van Fleet was forced to give the speech at a different venue.
“Last night I spoke off Whitworth campus on Marxist Cultural Revolutions,” Van Fleet tweeted Friday. “I want to express my deep appreciation for all those who attended the event including Whitworth Turning Point chapter members, professors, parents, & local residents.”
Last night I spoke off Whitworth campus on Marxist Cultural Revolutions. I want to express my deep appreciation for all those who attended the event including Whitworth Turning Point chapter members, professors, parents, & local residents. In a time when free speech is under… pic.twitter.com/oD96UUiMsS
— Xi Van Fleet (@XVanFleet) April 28, 2023
“In a time when free speech is under assault, it takes courage to show up to listen to a speaker with ‘incorrect & harmful’ views,” she tweeted. “You are the true defenders of free speech!”
Van Fleet, (pictured) who came to the United States with a student visa three decades ago, is author of “Mao’s America: A Survivor’s Warning.”
The book is “her dire warning to the United States,” where she “disturbingly sees signs of the same Cultural Marxism that ravaged her birth country of China,” according to the publisher’s website.
The student government had rejected Van Fleet on the basis of tweets comparing woke leftist political causes to China’s Cultural Revolution.
“Some of the things that brought up concerns that were brought to me was that there was a parallel driven between how Mao’s Cultural Revolution is the same as what is being called, ‘woke culture,'” off-campus Representative Nick Yochum said at the student government meeting, according to the minutes.
“In a couple different tweets she named things that were ‘woke,'” he said. “This includes Black Lives Matter, diverstiy [sic], equity & inclusion, environmental justice, latinx, love is love, me too, racial justice, social emotional learning, and social justice. She also added a second tweet onto that topic including, BIPOC, black female magic, and climate justice.”
“My constituents…were concerned with the fact of people basically referring to the work that they’re doing being equivalent to these very violent and horrible police forces,” Yochum said.
“Our goal here is to not bring someone that is harmful and make sure students feel safe,” another student stated.
Grace Stiger, president of Whitworth’s Turning Point USA chapter, had intended to host Fleet. Stiger spoke at the meeting in defense of the speaker, telling the group that Van Fleet’s talk would be restricted to her experience with Maoist China.
“A lot of times, speakers at Whitworth might align more with one way of thinking, so this is another avenue that I’d like people to be exposed to so they can come and have civil discourse with her,” Stiger said, according to the transcript.
“I also have talked to her about expectations and so just know I do not want homophobia or anything like that part of the conversation,” she said. “I strictly want to talk about Cultural Revolution and her experience, and coming to America now and what that means.”
Nonetheless, the student council voted 9 to 4 to reject the proposal to bring Van Fleet to campus.
“If you really would want an educated person to talk about the economics of the Cultural Revolution and Mao over China, we have a world class historian here at Whitworth; Anthony Clark,” International Student Senator Niraj Pandey said at the meeting, according to the minutes.
“I think there’s a difference between being a world class historian and also living through it,” Stiger said.
IMAGE: @XVanFleet/Twitter; Independent Women’s Forum