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Ann Coulter coming to IU

Conservative columnist to speak at Auditorium

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Feb. 3, 2006 

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Whether you think she's a bright, conservative speaker or a misinformed, narrow-minded shock artist, Union Board expects a packed crowd for author Ann Coulter, who is coming to speak at the IU Auditorium Feb. 23.

Coulter, author of "How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)" will give a speech titled "Liberals Are Wrong About Everything." The speech, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 7 p.m., but doors will open at 6 p.m., and seating will be available at 6:30 p.m.

Coulter has drawn quite a bit of controversy while touring the country speaking at colleges and universities. At the University of Arizona, a heckler threw a pie at her while she spoke. At the University of Connecticut, she was showered with chants of "You suck."

Union Board President Brad Allen said he realizes Coulter is a controversial figure who can be viewed as extreme, but said he is excited to have such a "big name" come and spark debate.

"Our goal is to inform and entertain and -- no matter what you think about her -- Ann Coulter does both," he said.

Reaction among students was mixed regarding Coulter's visit.

Groups like the IU College Republicans and the IU Republican Women, both co-sponsors of the event, showed excitement at her visit.

Some conservatives hail Coulter for statements about Democrats, such as, "It's as if all the brain-damaged people in America got together and formed a voting bloc."

"I absolutely love the woman for her sharp humor and ability to fight back at liberals who have no real basis for despising her," senior Nick McCormick said.

Others have attacked her not just for her conservatism but for what they consider outlandish statements she makes.

Jeffrey Isaac, chair of the political science department, said he has a serious problem with the way Coulter frames her arguments.

"My impression, based on what I have seen on TV, is that Ann Coulter is a bright woman," he said. "She is also a vicious polemicist who chooses to place her cleverness in the service of rabid and unfair denunciations, mischaracterizations and smears of liberalism, which for her seems hardly different than Satanism."

Isaac said he has no problem with Coulter coming to campus but said he hopes students won't expect an intelligent debate to occur.

"Union Board does many interesting things, and invites all kinds of 'acts' to the campus for the viewing pleasure of the campus," he said. "I just wish this event weren't billed as a serious political discussion, for that it is not."

Coulter has made many controversial statements on TV and in print. In a syndicated article published one day after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, she said about Arab nations: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." She also told the New York Observer "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to The New York Times building."

Many conservatives say she is a satirist in the same light as liberal author Al Franken and that her arguments might be harsh, but they aren't always so extreme.

"She isn't afraid to confront the liberal ideology head-on and say what a lot of conservatives are thinking but are too afraid to proclaim in order to maintain a sense of political correctness," junior Jeremy Gard said.

Security will be tightened for the event to prevent incidents similar to those that have occurred across the nation. To prevent a barrage of pies, bags and purses of certain sizes will not be allowed in the auditorium and will be held at the coat check. Signs will also not be allowed. Protesters will be allowed at Showalter Fountain outside the event, but not in the auditorium. Union Board and Dean of Students Dick McKaig will finalize the security policy closer to the date of event. It was rumored students might have to sign contracts, but Allen denied that was ever discussed.

Last year, Allen said Union Board was disappointed at student reaction to David Horowitz, a famous author who was heckled during his speech. Allen said while Union Board supports dissent, speakers should be allowed to have their views heard.

"They have a constitutionally protected right to protest as long as it's civil, as well the right to be wrong, in my opinion," Gard said. "However, Ann Coulter also has the right to be heard."

Isaac said the personal attacks Coulter makes, such as when, according to The Associated Press, she told an audience last week at Philander Smith College that she hopes someone puts rat poisoning in Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens crème brulee, don't help shield her from aggressive protests.

"I believe in free speech in the society at large, and I believe that universities are a place for serious debate," he said. "Unfortunately, I am not sure that Coulter's books and speeches are much different than verbal pie throwing."

Many students said they plan to go and protest or heckle, and others said they don't agree with Union Board's decision to bring Coulter to campus.

Freshman Danielle Weissberg, creator of an anti-Coulter Facebook group, said she is extremely disappointed with Union Board's decision. She said it is disrespectful to the women of the campus to bring such a well-known anti-feminist, referring to Coulter's claims that women are "not as bright" as men and that "it would be a much better country if women did not vote."

As a result, Weissberg said she plans to take part in protests not only against Coulter, but against Union Board for bringing her here as well.

"I think that protesters are doing what they feel is right and that is making sure their voice is heard to ensure that another incident like this doesn't happen again," Weissberg said. "I also think that Union Board should have expected a reaction slightly like this to such a controversial person being asked to come in and speak.

"I hope that other students will join me in sending a message that speakers who preach such morally reprehensible things should not be invited to speak to students, and if they are, it's not a decision the student body will support."

Some students have applauded the Union Board for bringing Coulter, because they say it supports a diversity of ideas.

"To engage in self-censorship in order to avoid controversy only serves to deprive the student body," sophomore Reid Simon said.

Allen said that Union Board does not take stances and the group's "greatest fear is to be thought of as a political group."

Many students who claim to dislike Coulter's views said they feel the best thing to do is just to ignore her.

"Don't give the beast any food, and she'll eventually starve to death," sophomore Chris Chrzan said.

 

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