On Feb. 13, Michael Adams, professor of sociology and criminology at the University of North Carolina–Wilmington, spoke as the Jeff Cole Distinguished Lecturer at the University of Montana, a lecture organized and funded by Maria Cole.
The University of Montana Chapters of the National Lawyers Guild (UM-NLG), OUTlaws, Women’s Law Caucus (WLC) and Native American Law Student Association (NALSA) joined faculty, other student organizations and concerned community members to peacefully protest Cole’s choice of speaker. We now call on the University of Montana to quash the perception that our academic institution distinguishes and validates Professor Adams and his hate-based rhetoric.
Adams perpetuates antagonistic rhetoric against the LGBT+ community, women, people of color and Muslims. He has a history of making xenophobic, misogynistic and racist statements, found on his twitter feed, his Townhall column and highlighted by NBC.
Silence in the face of these ideas is dangerous, and honoring a speaker who peddles bigotry with a distinguished lecturer award is unacceptable. The UM-NLG, OUTlaws, WLC and NALSA strongly condemn Cole’s decision to invite Adams and the University of Montana’s tacit approval. By offering a platform to speak at the university to someone that promotes hate-filled rhetoric, Cole, and the university by association, conferred legitimacy on Adams’ position. Hateful and harassment-based speech should not be promoted.
In the new era under university President Seth Bodnar, we urge Bodnar to reaffirm the values enumerated by the university in its policies against discrimination and harassment. By tacitly honoring Adams as a distinguished lecturer and providing a university venue to espouse his views, the university contradicted our mission to craft “informed, ethical and engaged citizens.” Inviting and endorsing speakers who promote discriminatory, hate-filled messages negatively impacts our campus and the Missoula community.
The University of Montana has a rich diversity, including people of color, LGTB+ people and people of the Islamic faith. Providing a university platform for speakers like Adams, who have a history of spewing hateful and harassment-based messages, creates an unsafe environment for people who are already marginalized and vulnerable.
The university must speak for our community and in accordance with the University of Montana Policy 707 on Discrimination and Harassment. We do not challenge Adams’ right to express his views. However, possessing the right to speak does not confer the privilege of speaking on our campus with the tacit approval of the university. The identity and the worth of our community members is not up for debate.