“An on-campus speaker gains a certain amount of privilege: they are given a platform where their ideas can be heard and respected. The political science department has extended this privilege even further, granting a wider audience and a degree of approval from a Trinity institution. When a part of the university sponsors Anderson, it follows that the department and the university believe those views are legitimate and worthy of consideration.”
This excerpt comes from a column in last week’s issue submitted by Madeline and Brendan Kennedy in light of Thursday’s lecture by Ryan Anderson on religious liberty and gay marriage. Madeline expressed disappointment in the decision to sponsor Anderson because she felt that the department that she calls home was allowing someone to argue that some of its own students should not enjoy equal rights.
In the week since, David Crockett, the chair of the political science department, brought a flaw in the Kennedy’s piece to our attention: the political science department did not sponsor the Anderson lecture.
Obviously, the Kennedy siblings did not just make this up. So why were they, and presumably other students, under the impression that the political science professors were sponsoring someone so upsetting to them?
Some of the advertising materials blatantly listed the Trinity University Department of Political Science as a sponsor of the event. The promotional information circulating students’ personal Facebook pages and “Overheard at Trinity” include a link to an EventBrite page that says the Anderson lecture was sponsored by “The Institute for Humane Studies, John Templeton Foundation, [and] The Political Science Department of Trinity University and Tigers For Liberty.” An advertisement promoted the event in last week’s Trinitonian; its contract caused some confusion for us as well. The name on the contract was the Department of Political Science, though the account the ad was purchased through was not the department’s.
After investigating this discrepancy and attempting to determine what to believe about the department’s alleged sponsorship of the event, we are only certain that we are still uncertain. Crockett made it clear that, while he had a role in organizing the lecture, it was only in his role as a faculty sponsor for Tigers for Liberty, not as the chair of the political science department. It seems that the confusion in the purchase of the Trinitonian ad was due to Crockett being off campus for several weeks. The money did not come from the department.
Yet even though those involved were aware that the promotional materials were misinforming students, they didn’t do much to set the record straight. Some students remained under the impression that the department to which they belong sponsored a speaker that promotes an ideology harmful to them. By not making an effort to clarify this misunderstanding, the political science department did little to quell the fears of its students. Whether it was an honest misunderstanding or those Wendt twins were trying to deceive us all, someone spread false information and little was done about it. We think it is important to be accountable to readers by printing corrections when mistakes occur in our paper; we hope that other organizations on campus will do the same and claim responsibility for misinformation to avoid such debacles in the future.