Universities are supposed to be the “marketplace of ideas.” With a “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), you would think that Arizona State University (ASU) would understand this. But apparently, the school would rather be just another woke university that shuts down free speech. Now, the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development—a center of the Barrett Honors College—and its executive director Ann Atkinson have found out the hard way.

Back in February, Atkinson organized an event on “Health, Wealth, and Happiness” as part of a series from the Lewis Center focused on connecting students with professionals who can offer career and life advice. Speakers for the event included Rich Dad, Poor Dad author Robert Kiyosaki, radio talk show host and founder of Prager U Dennis Prager, founder and president of Turning Point USA Charlie Kirk, and heart-transplant cardiologist Radha Gopalan. For a university that offers classes on subjects like witchcraft and critical theories of sexuality, this event felt pretty tame by comparison. But the mere mention of these conservative speakers caused more than 75 percent of the Barrett Honors College faculty to have a meltdown. (Looks like ASU’s commitment to force job applicants to sign diversity statements is paying off.)

Along with sending a letter to Barrett Honors College Dean Tara Williams condemning the event and calling the speakers “purveyors of hate,” some faculty spent time in class denouncing it while others actually recruited students to oppose the program. On top of that, on-campus marketing of the event was removed with fliers torn down and all digital advertising scrubbed. Atkinson was also told by the dean that she couldn’t send an email promoting the event all while ASU continued to promote a counter-event. And she was warned that if the speakers made any political statements, it wouldn’t be in the “best interests” of the Lewis Center.

Atkinson ignored all the threats, and the event proved to be a great success with 1,500 attendees in person, more than 24,000 attendees online, and zero disturbances or traumatized students.

So, how did ASU respond to this success?

Lin Blake, the event operations manager at ASU Gammage Theater (where the event was held), was fired despite initially being labeled a “rockstar” for how she handled the event. And as of June 30, ASU dismantled the Lewis Center and terminated Atkinson’s position.

Of course, this isn’t the first time ASU has shown disdain for conservative events. In January 2022, the university offered conflicting explanations for canceling a fundraiser that was set to feature Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs and former Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz. And in March 2022, the school initially canceled two other conservative events that included speakers Bret Weinstein and Katie Pavlich. The March events were eventually restored with a follow-up email that stated, “Under the leadership of President Michael Crow, Arizona State University is committed to intellectual diversity.”

For President Crow and ASU, it now appears that “intellectual diversity” and free speech are simply limited to allowing speakers to speak. But if those speakers even dare to hold ideas that are counter to the prevailing orthodoxy on campus, there will be retribution. Positions will be terminated. Centers will be closed. And students will suffer because of it. After all, many undergraduates skipped out on the “Health, Wealth, and Happiness” event because they were worried that their attendance could hurt them academically. That very real possibility should serve as a “red light” to any parent who’s considering paying to send their child to ASU. And it should inspire lawmakers to find ways to ensure that free speech is protected at our state’s taxpayer-funded universities.

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