Continuing the troubling trend of Christian institutions banning prominent conservatives, the University of Northwestern in Minnesota has decided to ban a Young America’s Foundation lecture by renowned pro-life speaker Star Parker. Students in the University of Northwestern’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter (UNW YAF) have been working for months to host a prominent conservative to address their peers, only to have their own administration strike down their plans.
On February 18, UNW YAF’s founding chair Hayley Tschetter alerted Young America’s Foundation to the administrative resistance she was encountering in trying to secure a venue and approval to host Star Parker.
Tschetter requested details from UNW administrators, and on February 20, they responded via email, saying their “main concern is that it is an open event.”
Apparently “it would be different if you were having a speaker just come speak to your club. Speakers open to all UNW students would have more strictness” explained the email before turning to ad hominem attacks on Star Parker’s character:
“There were quite a few concerns about Star. Our staff has been very adamant about bringing speakers to campus who educate and expand worldviews, but we really don’t bring speakers who radically hold beliefs that UNW as a whole would not agree with,” states the email. “In the past UNW has stayed away from sensationalized speakers. I foresee us continuing to do this. After reviewing some of Star’s material online we didn’t feel she was a good fit for our community.”
Seeking a reversal of the administrators’ decision, UNW YAF requested a meeting with University of Northwestern President Alan Cureton. On February 27, they found Cureton to be as resistant as the rest of the administrators they’d met or spoken with. According to UNW YAF Chair Hayley Tschetter, Cureton “said that he didn’t want to be divisive” and that “it’s better to provide a balanced view from different outlooks,” along the lines of a panel discussion. Tschetter responded by asking what opposing viewpoint UNW would want to elevate: someone who isn’t pro-life? Someone who thinks poverty is a good thing? “He didn’t really have an answer,” Tschetter noted. The meeting resulted in Cureton telling the YAF activists that he didn’t want to be involved and instead asked them to meet with UNW’s Vice President of Student Life, Nina M. Barnes. At the time of publication, Barnes had not responded to the meeting request.
For those who may be unfamiliar with Parker’s work, Star is founder and president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education. CURE has grown into a network of 800 pastors serving at-risk communities across the country. Her lifelong dedication to helping others was inspired by her conversion to Christianity, and this work has gone from consulting on federal welfare reform in the 1990s to her position today on the White House Opportunity Initiative task force seeking fixes for America’s most distressed zip codes. Her contributions to the national discourse continue to this day as a television commentator, an appointee to the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission, and as a popular campus speaker making more than 225 campus appearances including at Harvard, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UVA, and others.
But all of that—to the administrators at the University of Northwestern—amounts to radical sensationalism that’s not a good fit for their “Christ-centered liberal arts university” community.
“I accepted UNW YAF’s gracious invitation to defend life and traditional Christian principles,” said Star Parker. “Abortion has devastated the black community and is the moral crisis of our time. Christian universities are precisely where this urgent discussion should be happening.”
“As someone who took courses through the University of Northwestern as a high school student, this decision is a shocking departure from a school I once considered attending,” noted Young America’s Foundation Spokesman Spencer Brown. “UNW has chosen to abandon their core principles as a Christian university—set above and apart—in favor of avoiding any potential discomfort brought about by an insightful lecture from one of America’s leading conservative women on critical issues UNW’s students will soon be faced with in the world.”
“I was excited to embark on this new adventure and thrilled that Star Parker agreed to come and speak to my campus,” stated founding UNW YAF Chair Hayley Tschetter. “After doing a little reading on several YAF speakers, I thought she could address some relevant topics to our campus. However, many are too fearful of ‘controversy’ to allow her lecture to take place. Issues already divide campuses, Christians, and people nationwide—speaking about them will not cause a divide, it will bring the underlying issues to light and provide an opportunity for them to be discussed openly and civilly.”
Young America’s Foundation continues to monitor this situation closely and calls on the University of Northwestern to reverse its ban and allow Star Parker to bring her important perspective to UNW’s students.
This article was originally published by Young America’s Foundation and has been republished with permission.