26th June 2010

Posted in

Blog :: Sarah Palin and CSU Stanislaus

Well, Sarah Palin has come and presumably gone. As a Modestoan and a CSU Stanislaus Grad I feel compelled to render my opinion on the accompanying Senatorial disapproval, protesters, and media coverage.

You can read the Modesto Bee's coverage of Palin's appearance (including a video of her speech) and another article about the protestors - those links might be subscriber only though.

I've been quite amused by the furor - the publicity seeking statements by State Senator Yee and Jerry Brown, the constant stream of letters to the editor appearing in the Bee. The news accounts of the event described approximately 75 protestors who showed up to chant their disapproval of Palin's appearance.

I don't think there has been enough discussion about the reasons for the opposition to Palin's appearance. Most of the public statements of opposition don't really make sense - CA State Senator Yee said: (All quotes from the Saturday, June 26th, 2010 paper edition of the Modesto Bee.)

It is quite unfortunate that while the university has eliminated scholarships for students and raised fees, they feel compelled to line the pockets of Sarah Palin

But of course The CSU Foundation is not the University - and "the gala was the most lucrative single fund-raiser in the university's history, netting more than $200,000" - this is not exactly lining Palin's pockets at the expense of students.

CSU Stanislaus Alumni Alexandra Hoffmann explained her disapproval. "I think it should have been someone esteemed in the academic world, on the left or the right."

This is a frequently expressed observation - the story noted earlier that "liberal groups call[ed] her a poor choice for the university's 50th anniversary gala because she had no tie to academia or the area."

As a member of the graduating class of '99 I find this criticism funny - we had noted academic philosopher Bill Cosby (Why is there air?) as a graduation speaker and banquet headliner. He was great, of course! And as the University website notes - other featured speakers at CSU Stanislaus events include "Former First Lady Barbara Bush, historian Carlos Cortés, former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley, and former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and James A. Baker III. Performers Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Vince Gill, Van Cliburn, the cast from Beach Blanket Babylon, and Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band." Gary Sinise's band was the previously most successful fundraiser - and of course this is not exactly a roster of academic bigwigs.

I thought some of the protesters were more honest - one popular sign said "We'd rather have Tina Fey!" Tina Fey is of course also not an academic - but she is beloved by the left for making fun of Sarah Palin! Another protester, Fred Herman (fair disclosure - I've met Fred socially a time or two), said

"We're not here to bad-mouth one more gun-loving, woman-hating, anti-tax politician. We protest a political stunt, using a foe of university values to raise funds for educations that disprove most of (Palin's) notions."

This seems to me to be the most honest and clear description of the reason for all the hubbub. Simply put, the Academy is regarded by the left (and some on the right) as the exclusive province of the left. Sarah Palin is pugnaciously not of the left and therefore the legitimization by a part of the Academy (even in the trivial role of entertainer at a small-time CSU) must be resisted. Sarah Palin speaking at a University challenges the leftist assertion that education and academic values are automatically the values and ideas of the left.

I have to confess that I'm not really a fan of Sarah Palin. I'd describe my politics as Libertarian if pressed. I'm not unsympathetic to her small-governmet rhetoric. But I find her public persona a touch grating - so I'm not personally thrilled that she was here. I am happy, however, that my alma mater asserted in a tiny way the ideal of the marketplace of ideas in the academy by resisting the statewide pressure to dis-invite her. And of course to my Profs and fellow alumni who didn't like the selection of speaker - feel free to organize an alternate event. I hear the buckwheat blini was good - and who knows, perhaps Tina Fey is still available!

Posted on June 26th 2010, 09:48 PM

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