A response from Sean Janda

Sean Janda

This past Tuesday, Jan. 25, Washington University’s Treasury approved a $20,000 appeal to bring Bristol Palin as the keynote speaker and a panelist for a discussion about abstinence in college during Sex Week. Regardless of whether one agrees with Ms. Palin’s political beliefs or lifestyle choices, the fact remains that this grant is deeply troubling.

It appears as if proponents of Ms. Palin’s appearance are advancing two main arguments in support of this funding decision. First, according to Treasury member Daniel Bernard (as quoted in Student Life), this event is sure to draw a large crowd, which creates value in itself. Second, according to Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) President Scott Elman (also as quoted in Student Life), Sex Week has been criticized for being too liberal, and Ms. Palin brings a different perspective to these issues, which should create dialogue.

Both of these arguments have fundamental problems, however. Although Ms. Palin may pack Graham Chapel and spark dialogue, her appearance will fundamentally shift the discourse that this event will create. Instead of discussing issues regarding abstinence in college, students will discuss the suitability of Ms. Palin as a keynote speaker. In this way, Ms. Palin’s appearance will suppress dialogue about the issues that Sex Week is meant to address and, instead, spark dialogue about Treasury’s use of its money.

Moreover, events are only useful if they create an engaging, enriching dialogue. While it may be entirely true that a more conservative voice was necessary to create some ideological tension in Sex Week, there are worlds of more qualified and relevant individuals that could provide that tension. In addition, these individuals could spark the conversation that SHAC and Treasury wish to create without the distracting dialogue about their suitability to speak on these issues.

In addition, the choice of Ms. Palin as the keynote speaker for this discussion is problematic for a variety of other reasons. First and foremost, Ms. Palin does not bring a unique and engaging perspective to this issue. There are presumably thousands of individuals just in the St. Louis area that went through teenage pregnancies that have the exact same perspective that Ms. Palin does. Although I have no issues with Treasury paying for individuals that will provide an enriching perspective on campus, it appears to me that, in this case, Treasury is paying for a name. In terms of the actual content of her speech and the framework for her discussion, she is by no means unique, enriching or engaging.

Moreover, Ms. Palin is simply not qualified to speak about the challenges facing individuals who wish to remain abstinent in college. She has done no scholarly research on the issue, she has never worked in a job that brings her into contact with large numbers of students struggling with these issues, and she neither remained abstinent nor attended college. Although I am sure there are some topics on which Ms. Palin may bring a qualified perspective, this discussion is simply not one of them. Our money would be much better spent on bringing in individuals who have struggled with the challenges that they will be discussing.

Furthermore, Ms. Palin is far too polarizing for this particular situation. First, as I’ve already mentioned, the choice of Ms. Palin has already shifted the discourse surrounding this panel from issues regarding abstinence to issues regarding Ms. Palin. With this shift, the entire point of the panel discussion is lost, and a very good opportunity to engender thought-provoking dialogue is wasted. In addition, the issue of abstinence in college is one that ought to be treated in a respectful, thoughtful way. Ms. Palin’s appearance on this panel simply destroys any chance for the discourse around the event to evolve in the manner that it deserves.

In addition, Ms. Palin’s appearance on this panel is troubling because of the extraordinarily high opportunity cost. Treasury’s mission is to fund engaging, enriching programs throughout the entire year. Spending $20,000 of the rapidly dwindling appeals account for Ms. Palin makes me seriously worry about the quality of programs for the rest of the semester. Wasting this money on a speaker that, in my opinion, brings nothing uniquely substantive to this discussion is very disturbing.

Finally, this entire situation makes me wonder about the transparency of Treasury’s decisions. In the end, seven students out of Wash. U.’s approximately 6,000 undergraduates voted to spend this money. Although I understand the need for a representative system, Treasury’s agendas are not publicized in any meaningful way prior to their meetings. As a result, yesterday, almost nobody on campus knew that Bristol Palin was even being considered at Treasury’s meeting. As such, individuals other than Treasury members were unable to inform their representatives about their views on the issue. In this way, the entire undergraduate student body loses an opportunity to have its opinions considered by Treasury. As such, I believe that Student Union should strongly consider revising the way that Treasury operates so that students can have input into the way that their money is spent rather than being relegated to criticizing decisions after the fact.

Sean Janda

Class of 2014

  • kate

    So sad there is no true freedom of speech at Washington University. The thought police are here in their riot gear.

  • brbr2424

    Sean – excellent arguments. I hadn’t heard of the university but I’m very impressed with what I now know about the university. You have developed keen critical thinking skills. What’s with the comments section. Are the commenters also students? If so, they are a bit of an embarrassment to the university. There seems to be an incredible lack of reading comprehension amongst the commenters.

    • Matt Davies

      Some of the people posting comments, such as myself, are alumni. Others are parents of current students with a spattering of professors and other concerned citizens. Certainly, there are some valid points made in this article. There also are some valid points made in the comments. For the most part, this has been a civil discussion, with some hate coming from fringes of both sides — although the name calling came mostly from the anti-Palin crowd.

  • Matt Davies

    Miss Janda,

    Now with Miss Palin out, you are getting a left-wing doctor as a replacement. What does that mean to the balance of the discussion? Will abstinence be talked about with any real zeal? I am guessing not.

    • Matt Davies

      Potential correction to my comment. Replace “Miss” with “Mr” if indeed you are a male.

  • JT

    if anyone can prove why bristol deserves $20,000 to speak at this event specifically as opposed to someone else, ill give them the same amount too (but not actually because im a lying cheating leftist marxist)

  • chuck

    I have a better idea since Ms Kate Walsh open her mouth against Palin. Boycott the show’s sponsors on ABC her show and fans show your disguest with her. Afterall she’s only an actress who play acts a doctor? What does she know? Just tweet her she has no right intefere in free speech. Tweet to her.

    • JT

      isnt kate just engaging in her own free speech too?… why does that warrant boycotting? isnt that interfering in *her* free speech?

      • brbr2424

        It seems that Chuck is a Fox news Glen beck zombie. Those outlets are demonizing Kate for daring to challenge the hypocrisy of a Palin. Joe McGinnes referred to it as releasing the hounds of hell. Public figures shook in their boots in fear of the the backlash from right wing media if they dared to voice the slightest criticism of Sarah Palin and by extension Bristol. The floodgates have been opened however and more people are noticing that the empress is completely naked.

        • chuck

          Kste Walsh should be questioned. She’s on the board of planned parenthood. Me Fox News Zombie? I have news for you I’ve studied journalism in college. And other subjects. This incident reminds me very much of Tuscon when the left tried blame the right with baseless accusations which could be challenved in a court of law. I listen to all points of view. Apperent you’re the one closed minded.

          • zorro

            I’m pretty sure your knowledge of the law is only slightly greater than that of a panda bear. Well done.

  • b moore

    Sad day for America when this college will let a communist speak but not a mother who had a baby out of wedlock. Our children are being brainwashed by the idiots in this college and the administrators who are most likely all liberal, progressive, socialist democrats. Parents you better wake up and watch your children, they are destroying them and this great country. I have never seen so much hate being taught in these colleges in my old age, very scary, God Help America and our children.

  • Patriotic American

    The students of Washington University should be ashamed. Van Jones is not a practicing Marxist and yet you paid him. I hope the conservatives at the university protest every liberal speaker since their is now a precedent set. No controversial speakers since it detracts from the conversation!

  • “SEX WEEK.”

    I’m not sure what’s more disturbing, the fact this is an officially sanctioned observation at a publicly subsidized institution of learning, or that students have $20,000 in discretionary funds for “SEX WEEK.”

    Sean Janda said,
    “Instead of discussing issues regarding abstinence in college, students will discuss the suitability of Ms. Palin as a keynote speaker.”

    So, instead of giving Ms. Palin a platform to consider the weight of her argument, it’s the bigotry and intolerance of the student body toward Ms. Palin that’s the deciding factor?

    The sanctity of wisdom through life’s lesson communicated by personal testimony is a powerful tool. We can all learn from another’s mistake.

    I wish the dissenters would drop the academic pretense against Ms. Palin, and simple say it’s all about the $20,000.

    • zorro

      I think the entire point of the article is that it’s ludicrous to spend $20,000 on a speaker that brings no unique perspective to the dialogue—there are hundreds of 20 year old mothers in St. Louis that they could pick and save $20,000. So it’s not just about an “academic pretense” nor is it just about the 20k. It’s both.

      Also, I don’t know what’s so wrong with WashU having a “sex week”. It seems like it’s probably a good idea to create a dialogue about a very relevant issue in college life and young adult life in general.

  • Susan Collins

    Hello. I’m way over here in New Mexico, but I’d like to add that it’s pretty nutty that Bristol Palin was ‘uninvited’ the event I think that her speaking from her heart about how hard it is to be a young mother would be something that students would care about and would like to hear. It seems strange that you would let anyone tell you what you should or should not listen to – can’t you listen and make up your own mind? Kate.Walsh? I love her on ‘Private Practice’ – but why would HER political beliefs have anything to do with Bristol speaking?

    • Ariadne

      Bristol Palin has no idea how hard it is to be a single mother because she has tons of money and support available to her as the daughter of Sarah Palin. What would she know about handling a job while having to balance a budget and worrying about daycare? Issues about her lack of abstinence aside, she is simply not qualified to speak about what a pregnancy would mean in college when she has neither been to college nor has had the life of an average female college student. She’s NOT your typical young mother and her trying to guess at what it would be like to be a typical young mother is neither informative nor helpful to the students at this university.

      For far less than the 20,000 dollars it would’ve taken to bring her in the university could have brought in a whole panel of people to speak about abstinence and had more than half of that money left over. Bring in a minister, a doctor, a student at the university who went through a pregnancy at a young age. Any of those people would have more of a connection to an average American than Bristol Palin.

      It seems like an awful lot of money to spend on someone who really isn’t the best person suited to talk about something like abstinence. College is full of pressures and its a hard thing to choose to abstain from something that it seems like everyone around you is doing. Sure they could’ve brought her in and let her talk about it. But there are tons of people who could’ve done a better job of encouraging abstinence for less money. As for Kate Walsh, she merely brought the event to the eye of the university community. Nobody had to listen to her and yet the majority of the students agreed with her point of view. It wasn’t Kate Walsh that forced the university to cancel Bristol Palin’s invitation; it was the students who made that happen.

  • karen

    Yet, the university had no problem hosting controversial leftist Van Jones, in November? You can’t be serious!

  • princetrumpet

    Hey, way to keep an open mind and encourage discussion! You people are cowards.

  • M Mathis

    I think it incredibly interesting that you fund a Marxist speaker like Van Jones who is actively trying to destroy our Republic to bring about socialism/Communism. (Review his work-Especially STORM). Yet you find Ms. Palin too would cause a problem. Your CHE /MAO t shirt wearing students who care nothing for our Country , our founders, or the Exceptionality of who we are as Americans will win this battle if you young people don’t stand up for what we have and who we are.

  • Mary

    Good for the students (who already know to go to college and not get knocked up!)

  • CJChicago

    Nice to see that at Washington University they do not believe in allowing all sides to speak their mind. If it had been a woman talking about her abortion experience, these Leftist wackos would have applauded her and welcomed her with open arms. Sadly, the last thing universities are about is open mindness and an exchange of ideas. Where is your open mindness, Leftists? where? such small and closed minds that are coming out of our universities today.

  • Doug

    It appears that Washington University is becoming a communist/Marxist school of learning. When the Faculty or student body would rather have a person like Van Jones speak at their supposed school of higher learning it shows just how low they have sank. Don’t be surprised when your campus is under control by subversive’s I have empathy for your school Doug

    • Eric

      The student body isn’t concerned with Ms. Palin’s politics. We are concerned with the money being paid to someone who is not qualified to make that much for making a speech. If she was being paid what Van Jones was paid (5 thousand dollars), there would not be a problem. But as Mr. Janda pointed out, Palin has neither practiced abstinence nor attended college, and so she is not relevant to the issues about which she would speak. Her only claim to fame is being the daughter of Sarah Palin who became pregnant as a teen. She made a poor life decision. Does that make her qualified to get over ten thousand dollars for making a speech about abstinence? No. Maybe every time I make a mistake, I should be paid 15 thousand dollars to talk about it. That is why the student body was concerned with the treasury’s decision.

      • Matt Davies

        I am certain some of the student body was primarily concerned with the fee. I am also certain that most of the student body would have balked at $5K.

  • Ed

    So typical of liberals to be intolerant and closed minded to deny Bristol Palin to deliver her perspective on an important topic; one of which she is very qualified due to her experience. Take your medication and get over your Palin Derangement Syndrome.

    Silence the opposite views is the ‘1st amendment’ ideology of leftists; certainly not a view that has a place in an open, tolerant and free society.

    The writer clearly stands in the way of ‘progress’ and open debate on the issues. To them it’s their way or no way. They are perpetuating a society of ignorance.

    • JT

      shes totally free to deliver her perspective if she wants, she just doesnt deserve $20,000 dollars for it…

      • William

        But rather than attack the bigots, the Establishment Media attacked Bristol and defended the bigots. To top it all off, Huffpo and St. Louis’ own Riverfront Times each reported that Bristol’s honorarium was to be $20,000, WHEN IN FACT, $20,000 was the amount dedicated to the ENTIRE speakers panel – not just Bristol. It’s no small matter: it’s representative of a small campaign to vilify and condemn Bristol. As if what’s going on here is about money

        From Jonathon Burns article – Washington University Bans Bristol Palin, Spreads Oppression, Bigotry and Hate

  • PhilipJames

    First of all, you do not know if Bristol was being paid $20,000. Secondly, if Bristol is so controversial, why did you pay Van Jones $5000 to speak in November??? A avowed Marxist who is all about black racism.
    I guess that the open minded students there are a little more close minded than they think they are and a lot more leftist than they want to admit.
    We are all laughing at how stupid and idiotic you look to the rest of us… like little children afraid their point of view is not the right one and being defensive about it. Stew in your own bile…. Palin haters.