Letter to the Editor

To the Editor,

I am a recent alumna of Washington and Lee University and wanted to voice my opinion about Ann Coulter speaking at this year’s Mock Convention.

As a country, we are hurdling toward a precipice of choice, and perhaps more importantly, change with the 2016 political election. Voters are being bombarded with bigotry and  indiscriminate sectarianism from larger-than-life candidates, and the political dialogue is becoming saturated with hate.

Part of why Mock Convention is so unique, and such a valuable resource for young voters, is because it provides a forum for millennial Americans to have a political conversation in a safe and constructive place– separate, but keenly aware, of the political dialogue taking place in their country at large.

Mock Con challenges students to define their political beliefs and to question, challenge and encourage their friends to do the same in order to develop and grow as educated voters together.

With that goal in mind, I have to question why someone like Ms. Coulter has a place in Washington and Lee’s political conversation.

Ms. Coulter uses her First Amendment right to promote messages of discrimination, single-mindedness and, often, racism. She is not a journalist, she is a sensationalist, and I strongly believe hosting her on campus is a disservice to students.

I’d like to share some of her more memorable quotes with you, because I believe she can speak better for herself than I ever could in support of my prior statement:

“In contemplating college liberals, you really regret, once again, that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals by making them realize that they could be killed, too. Otherwise they will turn out into outright traitors.”

“Ethnic profiling is the only reasonable security measure that has been thwarted in the war on terrorism.”

“Whenever white liberals are in trouble, they always run to the blacks. Immediately after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, Monica went to a Washington Wizards game where she hoisted some poor unsuspecting black girl onto her lap in full view of the cameras. Bill Clinton dropped the subtlety and dashed off to Africa. After his abomination of a presidency, Jimmy Carter built housing in Harlem.”

Washington and Lee is a place of openness of ideas, intellectual development, personal growth and great integrity.

The way that Ms. Coulter practices (what she would call) journalism directly contrasts with those values that the University holds so dear.

I feel so disappointed that the University feels it is acceptable to fund the speech of a woman whose views and professed values isolate many, many members of the student body at Washington and Lee.

This is not to say the University should not bring in speakers who provide unique perspectives on world issues or challenge students to step outside their comfort zones.

But as a journalist, and empathetic human being, I strongly believe that is NOT what Ms. Coulter stands for. Ms. Coulter serves as a fountain for the absurd– hyperbole personified for the sake of shock and awe. Is this really someone the University wants to align its values with? If so, I must admit my profound sadness and disappointment.

I know the entire Mock Convention team has a lot on their plates and strive to bring the best guests possible to the University. I also understand that they are likely contractually obligated to host Ms. Coulter at this time and that the opinion of a single alumna isn’t relevant.

But I do hope this sparks a conversation, or even a thought, about the kind of people Washington and Lee associates itself with– whether in a big or small way– and that, in the future, the Mock Con team will consider the views and values held dear by a speaker over the prestige and notoriety of his or her name.

Very respectfully,

Maggie Voelzke

Class of 2015