ITHACA, NY (WSKG) –Protesters disrupted a guest lecture at Binghamton University by conservative economist Arthur Laffer. He was invited by the University’s chapter of College Republicans. As a result, the lecture was cancelled and two people were arrested.
It is not clear why the lecture was canceled after the protester was removed. Binghamton University denied WSKG’s request for an interview.
But, the fact that it was cancelled may send the wrong message according to Nadine Strossen, a past president of the American Civil Liberties Union.
BU is not alone in coping with such conflicts over free speech.
Strossen, who now teaches at New York Law School, said free speech is especially important in educational institutions. She said the U.S. Supreme Court has been clear about protecting the rights of free speech even when that speech is controversial.
“If you disagree with the idea the appropriate response is not to silence the idea,” she explained. “But to use counter-speech to debate it, to refute it, to discuss it.”
In a statement the University said demonstrators refused an offer for use of an adjacent lecture hall for an opposing event. The protest came after the conservative group Young American’s Foundation posted a video on YouTube that showed a confrontation between protestors and a conservative group on campus last week.
Binghamton-area State Senator Fred Akshar tweeted video of the protest and said he would cancel an upcoming invitation to speak at BU. He later sent a statement saying he has invited groups with varying viewpoints at the university to come together for a discussion.