The Corner

The Justice and Amherst College

On Uncommon Knowledge today, Mr. Justice Antonin Scalia despairs of the state of debate on our campuses — “they’re interested in the diversity of everything except ideas” — noting, by way of illustration, that when he spoke at Amherst several years ago the faculty boycotted his remarks.

This just in from an Amherst man:

Mr. Robinson,

I had the pleasure of attending the lecture at Amherst that Justice Scalia spoke about in this week’s Uncommon Knowledge.  I was…on campus to sell commencement issues of the student newspaper and to see some of my older friends graduate, before starting my work as a summer intern at AEI’s old “The American Enterprise” magazine.  (I mention this only to establish my impeccable right-wing bona fides.)

I don’t recall there having been a boycott qua boycott of Justice Scalia’s talk.  As an initial matter, there was at least one Amherst professor there – Hadley Arkes, who I understand organized the lecture, which was held in the magnificent octagonal classroom in which he tought most of his classes. I don’t recall there being other Amherst professors there, but you have to understand that the lecture was held on the day before commencement, when by Amherst custom the individuals receiving honorary degrees give short lectures about their work….

This is not to say that the Justice wasn’t treated rather shabbily.  I still don’t understand why he wasn’t given an honorary degree – *that* could certainly be the result of pervasive left-wing bias.  And his lecture was interrupted by a heckler — who turned out to be one of the honorary degree recipients!  During Scalia’s talk — about five minutes before the honorary degree recipient talks were scheduled to start — a man stood up and said something to the effect of, “I hate to interrupt you, but I really feel you interrupted the election process in *Bush v. Gore*.”  (Remember, this is May 2002.)  There was then a brief commotion, in which Professor Arkes said there would be time for questions after Justice Scalia was finished, after which point the heckler said something like “I’m sorry, I have to go receive my *honorary degree*,”  and then stormed out.  It was director and famed jerk David O. Russell.  He then apparently hoofed it across campus to the lecture hall where he was to speak, where he related what he’d just done before starting in to a lecture about how becoming a Buddhist had made him a much more peaceful person (or something like that). 

He pulled off the pretty impressive feat of making an ass of himself in front of two separate audiences in less than 20 minutes.

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