Letter to the Editor
March 30, 2023
Note: This page has been updated to reflect the edited letter to the editor that was published in The Wall Street Journal on March 30, 2023.
Furman University Replies to Mary Eberstadt
We have had no incidents of violence or disruption to any speakers.
Furman didn’t cancel Mary Eberstadt; Ms. Eberstadt canceled on Furman, without giving Furman officials a reason for doing so or providing us an opportunity to address her concerns (“You Can’t Cancel Me, I Quit,” op-ed, March 27).
For many years, Furman has invited a number of speakers to campus through the Tocqueville Program. Some have generated strong reactions from members of our campus community, but all spoke anyway, because universities are spaces for debate. While not everyone has agreed with the university’s invited speakers, Furman remains steadfast in its support of the free exchange of ideas and open dialogue. This is evidenced by the wide range of speakers who have been invited and chose to speak despite encountering criticisms or opposing views. We didn’t cancel them and they didn’t cancel on us.
In accordance with university policy, students applied to protest Ms. Eberstadt’s appearance silently outside the venue. Earlier this semester, students held a similar, peaceful and silent protest of Scott Yenor, another speaker invited by the Tocqueville Program. Students held signs quoting comments Mr. Yenor had made in previous settings. Mr. Yenor passed that gathering without incident and gave his talk to an engaged audience without interference. Furman attendees noted that no protesters were present inside the venue and that our students asked thoughtful, engaging questions. It was in no way an “angry mob,” as Ms. Eberstadt described it.
Ms. Eberstadt’s assumption that she would encounter a “hateful mob” at Furman is troubling. We have had no incidents of violence or disruption to any speakers. We were truly surprised by Ms. Eberstadt’s characterization of the events leading up to her decision and disappointed to learn that she had canceled. This was a missed opportunity for our students to hear from her and engage in healthy dialogue. She is, of course, welcome to return so that she may learn more about how thoughtful our students are and how they engage civilly.
President, Furman University