Government Professor Harvey C. Mansfield Jr. ’53 said he was insulted after being disinvited to speak at a gala at Concordia Liberal Arts College in Canada because of his self-declared “conservative” views on gender and sexuality.
Concordia Liberal Arts College Principal Mark A. Russell invited Mansfield in December to deliver the keynote address at the college’s 40th anniversary gala this May, according to emails provided by Mansfield. Russell wrote in his invitation that the college was “honored” to host Mansfield.
But in February, Russell wrote in an email to Mansfield that after debate arose among faculty and alumni, he and the college’s other seven faculty members decided to cancel the event altogether.
“The committee charged with finding a speaker, including myself, acted in good faith, but rather precipitously,” Russell wrote. “As we moved forward with plans for our celebrations - as an entire faculty and in conversation with representatives of our alumni - we were unable to achieve consensus as to what we wished to achieve with this event.”
Russell’s email did not provide further explanation for the cancellation, but Mansfield said in an interview Sunday that roughly a dozen alumni approached members of the faculty to voice concerns about his historical stances on women and people who identify as BGLTQ — opinions which he described as “conservative” but “nothing outlandish.”
In a landmark 1996 Colorado court case, Mansfield served as an expert witness in support of a state amendment preventing protected status based on sexual orientation. In 2006, he published a book entitled “Manliness” which defended traditional gender roles. In 2014, he wrote an op-ed in the Weekly Standard criticizing feminist students’ views on sexual assault, arguing that the prevalence of “rape culture” on college campuses is actually a “hook-up culture” stemming from a lack of “feminine modesty.”
The news agency Canadian Press reported that Russell confirmed in an email that a majority of the college’s faculty agreed to disinvite Mansfield after hearing alumni concerns.
“We heard from many that they would not attend the event because they objected to the views he has expressed publicly on women and homosexuals,” Russell is said to have written.
Russell did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Crimson.
Mansfield called being disinvited “an insult.”
“It’s a form of intolerance, I would say an aggressive form of intolerance,” Mansfield said. “It’s a part of the culture war that’s going on, and also our political polarization.”
He compared the incident to what he perceives as a dearth of conservative voices at Harvard’s commencement exercises each year, which he said achieve “quiet and unity” by inviting speakers without controversial views.
“They got unity by suppressing the other side, and the same thing happens at the Harvard commencement when they never have a conservative, because a conservative would be protested,” Mansfield said. “That gives the protesters a veto over who speaks.”
University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain did not respond to requests for comment about Harvard’s commencement speaker selection.
—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @mollmccaff.