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About 200 people gathered outside the Bush Presidential Conference Center at Texas A&M University on Monday to protest a lecture by Weatherhead University Professor Samuel P. Huntington, claiming that his views on immigration were offensive and false.
According to Armando Alonzo—an associate professor in the history department at Texas A&M and one of the protestors—the faculty, students, and community members who participated in the demonstration disagreed with the opinions Huntington expressed in his most recent book, “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity.”
In the book, Huntington suggests that Mexican-Americans might be failing to assimilate into American culture as past immigrants have, an assertion that Alonzo characterized as alarmist.
“I think he’s crossed the line and he’s appealing to nativistic attitudes, which is very harmful,” Alonzo said.
But Huntington dismissed the demonstrators, claiming that they were poorly informed and didn’t understand his positions.
“I would put very little weight on the protestors in terms of the quality of the protest or in terms of their numbers,” he said.
He described the central concern of “Who Are We?” as the future of American culture and identity.
“Do we want to be one nation or two nations?” Huntington said, framing the question he explored in his book. “Do we want to evolve into two nations with two languages and two different cultures...based on what I say in my book, I think that that’s very possible.”
The area where Texas A&M is located is heavily populated with Hispanic immigrants, and many employees of the university are Hispanic. In addition, the university had declared October as a month to celebrate Hispanic culture and heritage—a decision both Alonzo and Texas A&M Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President for Communications Stephen Moore cited as an additional motivation for the protests.
Moore presented the issue as one of academic freedom and claimed that both the lecture and the protest were proof of the university’s respect for it.
“Academic freedoms and rights of freedom of speech are paramount,” Moore said in reference to Monday’s events. “This is really an example of free speech at work.”
Alonzo agreed and said that he supported Huntington’s right to speak. But he also said that the assertions of Huntington’s book were the product of poor academic work.
“We’re not protesting his right to say these things, we’re protesting his ideas...there’s really a lot of scholarship on this issue and he doesn’t present it clearly,” he said.
Huntington holds the title of University Professor, Harvard’s most prestigious professorial position and an honor bestowed on only a handful of faculty members. This fall, he is teaching Government 1747, Contemporary Global Politics, as well as a research workshop in comparative politics in the Government department.
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