Apr 16, 2007
Open letter to Cleary University LEC coordinator
This is my response to an email I received from Janet Filip, the Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Cleary University, the person who books the speakers for the Livingston Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series and the wife of the chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, last week.
I asked her with all of the quality people available at the same speakers bureau where she booked Coulter why the university chose someone so racist and hateful as Coulter. She sent me this response, and although she has been very polite, gracious and forthcoming she never really answered the question.
I know that anything less than me replying that we are canceling Coulter's appearance is not going to be satisfactory to you. At this point, there are no plans to do so and I am not in a position to be the one to cancel her. The advisory board, many of whom are not fans of Ann Coulter's (nor am I) is aware that now the ultimate decision rests with the Executive Board of Trustees for the University. They will be having discussion about this at a meeting later this month, but based on feedback we've received from several board members, I don't think it will happen. I mentioned it before, but Ann Coulter is not a commencement speaker for the University. We are not forcing anyone to listen to her or to embrace her beliefs. The Livingston Economic Club is a program that enables those interested in hearing a speaker to pay to do so. President Sullivan was quoted as saying that the University does not endorse anyone that we have speak. Saying outrageous things is not new to Ann. Those that hated her before her comments a month ago still hate her. Those that were fans are probably still fans. But, most people (I think) probably could care less one way or the other because they don't give her a second thought. Yes, there are many speakers who are less money and many who are significantly more. It is a balancing act of bringing speakers who will be appealing to the majority of the community and to those who have supported and will continue support the LEC program. I doubt we'll ever be able to bring someone who has never said anything offensive - our obviously won't pay to see her speak. One member of our advisory board has never been a fan of hers and doesn't want to hear her speak. She will be giving her ticket to someone else to attend in her place. I don't know if all this really addresses your questions but it's my reply nonetheless.
As far as posting on your blog - I normally don't post on blogs- I Think I got a little defensive when I heard you were writing about me and my husband being the driving forces behind the speaking engagement and I replied. I am learning that with his involvement in the Republican Party, people have opinions of him and even dislike him without even knowing anything else about him. In fact, we have a neighbor down the street from us that has left us hateful letters in our mailbox. This neighbor hates Republicans and everything they stand for (which is his right), but without knowing anything else about us, has called us the most vile names. I don't like blogs because anonymous names and often spew hate and venom. I don't believe constructive dialogues can happen if people won't reveal their identities. I believe in saying what you think and standing behind that- people don't always have to agree, but I think it's important to at least be honest. I respect people who do that, even if we disagree.
Back to the LEC, I certainly believe the Coulter appearance has gotten folk's attention and they will definitely be paying attention to who we book in 2008. I look forward to the LEC presenting an outstanding lineup.
I have to disagree with what you perceived as what I think a satisfactory response from you would be. If Coulter was speaking for free I might consider dropping my opposition. I live in both Howell and Livingston County, and welcoming her here simply spreads the message that we are a community that accepts and welcomes racists with open arms and pocket books. That is simply not true, but that’s the message that’s going out with her appearance.
It seems the board’s minds are already made up, but in light of the recent firing of radio broadcaster Don Imus it should cast Coulter’s appearance in another light. As a good friend of mine said, CBS is firing Don Imus for racists remarks, but Cleary University and Livingston County are hiring Coulter for her racist remarks at more than $30,000 for two hours of hate.
I totally disagree with your assertion that “the University does not endorse anyone that we have speak.” Matt Evans, chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party, said it best when he said her appearance in Livingston County reinforces the general perception that Livingston County is a safe haven for racists and bigots of all ilks.
I never said I hated Ann Coulter, but the things she says are simply wrong. You are 100 percent correct when you say, “Saying outrageous things is not new to Ann.” That’s exactly the point. At what point and how many times does she have to cross the line of decency before we say enough and stop throwing money at her like the university is doing? What more does she have do and say before people throw up their hands and say we should not be giving this racist a platform, let along pay her to do it? If she shows up wearing a white robe and hood will that finally be enough to change your board's mind? It makes you wonder why Coulter is appearing in Livingston County instead of Ann Arbor where Cleary’s main campus is.
I think you are wrong when you say, “I doubt we'll ever be able to bring someone who has never said anything offensive.” Just off the top of my head, someone like Sparky Anderson, Lance Armstrong, Mike Eurizione or Art Linkletter fits your bill of not being offensive and appeals “to the majority of the community and to those who have supported and will continue support the LEC program.”
I also disagree with you on blogs. There are those people who visit blogs that post anonymously, but not the actual bloggers. I prefer to use a pen name when I blog, but I take ownership of everything I write.
I never said your “husband being the driving forces behind the speaking engagement.” What I said, and it is still true, is there is a conflict of interesting in Allan Filip, Chairman of the Livingston County Republican Party, commenting on Coulter’s appearance for a news article without reveling the relationship. Nowhere in the article does it mention the person who booked Coulter is his wife. Now, that may matter tremendously to some people and not a bit to others, but the conflict of interest exists and should have been pointed out to allow readers to decide what it meant for them.
The one point I do agree with you on is when you say the “Coulter appearance has gotten folk's attention.” I think that was the goal all along, and it wasn’t to further the mission of the LEC to” enrich the Livingston County community by hosting speakers who can share a broad spectrum of social, political, intellectual and cultural experiences.” Those lofty, ambitious and noble goals could have been met and you could still sell out the venue with a better speaker without selling out the university’s integrity.