Cancel Culture Descends on Pitt

I detest cancel culture, especially its ugly spread to speakers on college campuses. Universities ought to be bastions of genuine diversity and the free exchange of ideas. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh in the late 1980s, liberals and conservatives alike were united in supporting one another’s right to bring in speakers. Often, the more controversial the speaker, the stronger each camp stood for free speech.

Thus, it’s quite dismaying to see a fellow University of Pittsburgh alum, an elected Pennsylvania state representative no less, seeking to cancel three speakers invited to the university this semester and, in turn, threaten the university’s funding. And lest you think this is unique to Pitt, well, it’s obviously not. This is a scourge on campuses nationwide.

The legislator is Democratic State Rep. La’Tasha Mayes. In a statement addressed to Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher during a House Appropriations budget hearing, Mayes demanded the university cancel events featuring speakers critical of transgenderism, namely: swimmer Riley Gaines, Daily Wire commentator Michael Knowles, and Daily Wire podcaster Cabot Phillips.

Mayes says that QUOTE all “three speakers … have crossed the line of free speech over into hate speech targeting transgender students and the transgender community.” QUOTE

I find most curious the accusations against Riley Gaines. Gaines’ position as a female swimmer is that transgendered athletes (specifically, biological males who identify as females) should not be permitted to compete against biological females. Her position is precisely that of tennis legend and feminist Martina Navratilova and the official position of the World Athletics Council.

And to Gaines, it isn’t merely what happens in the water, but in the locker room.

Of her own experience, Gaines says: QUOTE “You have someone with male genitalia pulling his pants down, watching you as you undress. I thought surely there would be someone, whether that be a coach, or another swimmer, or someone within the NCAA, I thought surely someone would stick up for us. That’s when I realized it’s my duty as a female athlete who experienced this injustice to really use my voice and my platform to advocate for those female athletes who are emotionally blackmailed and gaslit into silence.”

Is that statement from Gaines what Rep. Mayes considers “hate speech?”

A petition by LGBTQ students echoes Mayes: “It is unacceptable and against the values of this University to allow groups under its administration and on its behalf to host events featuring individuals who wish to advance a platform of hate and transphobia and make our beloved institution an accomplice to the trending attacks that place trans bodies and humanity in the middle of a culture war fabricated entirely for political gain.”

The claims of a “culture war” being pushed by the political right is a common mantra by the political left. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently said just that on the floor of the U.S. House. Conservatives would counter that the culture war has already been launched, by the left, and they’re merely trying to fight back, least of all with an uncensored voice in the debate. There’s no dialogue if only one side is permitted to speak.

For the record, the University of Pittsburgh is standing behind the rights of these speakers. “These events are being organized by—and the speakers have been invited by—registered student organizations on campus,” says the university. “Student organizations are permitted to invite speakers—including highly provocative ones—to campus without University administration deciding what is acceptable and what is not.”

Chancellor Gallagher states: “the university is a place of dialogue and in fact both constitutional and academic free speech are things that I am obligated to support.”

One would hope so. What’s worse is that some of these events, including the one with Michael Knowles, is a debate, namely, with Deirdre McCloskey, a well-known transgender economist.

Good grief, can’t we even permit people who want to debate to debate one other?

Not the warriors of cancel culture. This is what their “diversity” looks like. Too many people shouting for dialogue refuse to practice what they preach. It’s an ugly thing to see, especially on our campuses.