‘Town hall’ response
In the last issue of The Colonnade, I learned that Paul Broun, the notorious Republican Congressman who recently declared evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory “all lies from the pit of hell,” held what was billed as a “town hall” here on the Georgia College campus. This congressman, by the way, also sits on the House Science Committee along with Todd Akin, the man who thinks that women’s bodies are equipped with a mysterious mechanism to reject pregnancy from “legitimate rape.”
To my shock and dismay, the article stated that no mention was made of the outrageous remarks concerning modern science and no members of the audience even broached this topic. I was relieved to read Professor William Risch’s sensible response to the lapse on the Opinion page of the paper and have since learned that Broun’s staff required that the program adhere to a tight script with five pre-approved questions and only two allowed from the live audience.
As a graduate student at Georgia College, a public liberal arts institution, I am dismayed and disheartened that such a charade was tolerated – and that the censorship of open, democratic dialogue was deemed acceptable on our campus. Congressman Broun has a right to voice his opinions but freedom of speech is not a selective right that comes with privilege. I have no objection to his appearance on our campus but that presence must be balanced by authentic engagement with the academic community, especially if Georgia College is serious about upholding its Values Statement: To invest “in its students the extensive knowledge and strategic skills for them to thrive as productive citizens of a globally engaged democracy.”
In the future, I hope Georgia College will think twice before allowing notorious speakers such as Broun to essentially use our institution as a PR gig or photo op, rather than as a place for genuine democratic discourse.