The former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton, gave an address at Union College this past Tuesday.
Though John R. Bolton as a choice of speaker is more than controversial in itself, the process of bringing Bolton to Union reflects a larger problem with how political discourse is conducted at Union College as a whole.
Union’s mission statement states that the college believes in “reflecting personal and diverse views,” and “contributing to humanity.”
Events held at Union further students’ engagement and thought towards the campus, local, and national community.
The lack of any factual foundation to Bolton’s numerous vitriolic opinion pieces, his long history of questionable political and financial dealings, and his unyielding war-mongering makes him a dubious choice for Union as it strives to enrich our academic and social environment.
With numerous history department professors withdrawing support from this event, it leads the question of how such a negatively impactful speaker is came to Union in the first place.
Ironically, the Frederic E. Miller Lecture Series in Honor of Anwar Sadat speaker series is being used to promote a speaker supporting violent policies. Bolton’s price tag runs at $15,000 – $25,000, and though the event privately funded, it remains a hefty sum for a talk that undermines Unions’ goals of creating productive dialogue between opposing groups of opinions.
Before bringing in any speaker, a standard review must be conducted to ensure that they will not “incite hate”.
This holds true for all speakers, including for Josh Ruebner, author and founder of Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as for Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement.
These critiques have prevented exhibits from making it to campus.
This last term, a poster exhibit of historical boycott campaigns, featuring more than fifty posters, was denied due to a few depicting the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” movement.
However, the fund that is being used for Bolton, an endowment to the Jewish Studies department from Dr. Arnold Goldschlager ’59, allowed the organizers of this event to bypass these conversations within the community that occur for events that have the potential to be controversial.
Even though the funding is private, this event is still represented by Union and is still reflective of the Union community; all potential speakers should be considered for the value they will bring to campus, regardless of the funding.
But while events of the minority opinion are subject to cautious consideration, organizers of this event have exploited an endowment to bring a belligerent speaker with a history of supporting violence to our campus.
We encourage the entire campus community to consider this dangerous duality, and to critically examine how events like this represent the skewed dynamic of the conversations supposedly representing “Union’s diverse views.”