A professor at Orange Coast College in California banned the school’s Republican Club from attending a public African American/Women’s roundtable discussion in March — apparently over “safe space” concerns.
Jessica Alabi, a sociology professor, apparently e-mailed three campus officials announcing that she would not allow the students to attend. The e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Examiner, stated:
Hi Kevin. I just told the Republican club that they could not come to the Curl Talk event. This event is an African American / Women’s round table discussion. I asked Vincent why was he doing this and I was very upset. He brought five people who kept saying that they were told that they could come to women’s history month events.
I just want everyone to be advised that the African American female students had and still have an expectation that this is a safe space event. If the college will not stand up to the Republican club, I have decided to stand up for myself and other students. Just wanted to keep you informed.
Yes, that’s right. Alabi considers banning students from a public event to be “standing up” for herself. Sorry, Alibi, but that’s not called “standing up for yourself;” it’s called “being a totalitarian nightmare.”
Thankfully, OCC agrees with this logic — the Washington Examiner reports that OCC president Dennis Harkins spoke with Alabi and informed her that she had no right to ban students from the event.
The club members, though, said that they didn’t think this conversation would do any good — that Alabi had done this kind of thing in the past and would probably continue to do it again in the future, regardless of what the college president told her. The members issued a letter with the following demands to stop such “discrimination” in the future:
1. That an investigation be opened, or reopened, into Jessica Alibi discriminating against Republican club members, and conservative students as self-reported by her via public email to you.
2. That upon the completion of the investigation if it’s proven that Professor Alabi discriminated against students on the basis of their ideological viewpoint and party affiliation that, at the least, she be suspended from teaching for two non-intersession semesters at Orange Coast College, and if possible as well as the Coast Community College District, and be permitted to return after that suspension once she’s attended an in-depth training on student’s rights and preventing viewpoint discrimination, as well as be required to write a one page long apology letter to the OCC Republicans and the members effected [sic] by her actions.
3. That President Harkins write a letter to the Board of Trustees supporting the revision and ratification of board policy changes proposed by our club in early April to the Board of Trustees that would amend current district policies to protect students from discrimination on the basis of political affiliations and ideological beliefs .
4. That Orange Coast College will take measures to start, or improve, training for faculty and staff on how to respect students’ rights, viewpoints, and be trained on what viewpoint discrimination is to prevent future instances.
Now, I don’t know anyone involved in this situation personally, but I’d have to say that I certainly understand the students’ concerns that talking to Alabi won’t do any good. Why? Because I have enough faith in Alabi’s basic intelligence to believe that she already knew that what she was doing was against the rules. After all, the idea that public events are supposed to be open to the public is not exactly a hard concept to understand. In all likelihood, it wasn’t that she didn’t understand what the rules were, it’s that she thought she was above them.
What’s more, the fact that Alabi apparently did this under the guise of protecting “safety” is completely ridiculous. Having the Republican Club at the event may have made some people uncomfortable, but it would not have made anyone unsafe. And there’s a huge difference: We do have a right to be safe in public spaces; we don’t have a right to be comfortable.
If the students that Alabi fancies she was “protecting” wanted to have a private discussion, then fine — they should have had a private event. But you can’t ban students from a public, official discussion any more than you can kick someone out of the mall because you’d rather shop without them around. The thing about being in public is that it actually — wait for it! — belongs to the public, meaning that your own personal comfort level about what is or is not happening is actually completely and totally irrelevant.