It looks like we struck a nerve at one of the largest universities in the United States. Last week, the Free Enterprise Club published an article on Arizona State University’s (ASU) failure to uphold free speech. The article came in the aftermath of an event held by the T.W. Lewis Center for personal development—a center of the Barrett Honors College—that featured prominent conservative speakers like Robert Kiyosaki, Dennis Prager, and Charlie Kirk.
While the event was allowed to proceed, it faced a campaign from 39 of the 47 faculty from the honors college who tried to shut it down. Then, in the months following the event, the center was not only dissolved, but two staff members lost their jobs. Now, ASU has offered a “fact check” of our article in a desperate attempt to save face. And as you might expect, it’s another swing and miss.
It begins by referencing our organization as the Free Enterprise “Club.” Yes. That’s right. It put “Club” in scare quotes for whatever reason, as if that may not be part of the name of our organization. But it has inspired us to consider recognizing ASU as Arizona State “University” moving forward. After all, universities are supposed to be institutions of higher education, and ASU appears to be trending away from that mission to fulfill its desired woke agenda.
Speaking of agendas, ASU also accuses the Club of being “a non-profit, political organization with a political agenda which utilizes what have now become standard political techniques of making brash, attention-getting statements and accusations in a well-orchestrated campaign to secure more social media engagement, more media hits and more donations.”
We’re certainly glad our article got the attention of ASU and others. That is, after all, what an article is supposed to do. And it’s in line with our mission. Since 2005, the Arizona Free Enterprise Club has been the leading organization in the state dedicated to advancing a pro-growth, limited government agenda in Arizona. And through active lobbying, litigation, and our extensive grassroots network, the Club has secured numerous policy victories in the state, including historic income tax cuts, expanded school choice, and protection of free speech. So, yes, when we see violations of free speech, we call them out. We want to get the attention of the people of Arizona, so they know about it and can speak up. And once again, this strategy proved to be a success as the state legislature holds a hearing today about free expression at Arizona’s public universities.
But what about the content of the article itself? What did ASU specifically refute or identify as factually incorrect? We would like to call out a few particular highlights from their alleged “fact check”:
This is how ASU responded to this particular sentence. No talking points. No arguments. Just a link to the “About” page on its website that says nothing about its commitment to free speech.
Some ASU faculty members disagreed? We’re talking about more than 75 percent of the Barrett Honors College faculty signing on to a letter condemning the event and calling the speakers “purveyors of hate.” That’s certainly more than “some.” And ASU’s claim that it is “unaware that students were ‘recruited’ by faculty to oppose [the event],” is laughable when we know at least one faculty member emailed the condemnation letter to her students.
This is just another carefully worded response. ASU’s fact check says that “employees” are not forced to sign diversity statements. But our article doesn’t mention employees. It references “job applicants,” and according to a report from the Goldwater Institute, as of the Fall of 2022, more than 81 percent of job postings at ASU mandated a diversity statement from applicants.
ASU’s “fact check” claims that Lin Blake left for reasons having nothing to do with the Lewis Center event, which certainly makes it sound like she left of her own accord. But then it goes on to say it would be glad to provide more information about her leaving. That makes no sense. Just like it makes no sense to fire someone who was referred to as a “rockstar” within months of pulling off a successful event amid controversy while dealing with staffing shortages due to the Super Bowl occurring the same week.
While ASU has certainly hosted conservative events, our article didn’t say that the school cancels every single conservative event that comes its way. That would’ve thrown up red flags years ago. But it can’t deny that it did cancel a conservative fundraiser in January 2022 with conflicting explanations. And it did cancel the events featuring Brett Weinstein and Katie Pavlich after faculty opposed them in a survey until President Michael Crow felt pressure and restored the events.
Finally, ASU claims that no centers were closed or personnel were fired as a result of the event. Their stance is that the donor to the Lewis Center simply withdrew his gift. But once again, ASU isn’t disclosing the entire story. T.W. Lewis says that he pulled his funding because of ASU’s hostility to conservative thinkers. And Ann Atkinson—the executive director of the T.W. Lewis Center who was fired—says that she offered a diversified group of donors to offset the funding, but that Barrett Honors College Dean Tara Williams wasn’t interested.
Perhaps, instead of spending so much time fact-checking, ASU should simply stop giving in to the leftist faculty mob and follow through on its supposed commitment to free speech. It’s not enough to just allow speakers to speak. Everyone should be able to freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship or retribution. That’s the heart of the First Amendment. And if ASU won’t commit to it, Arizona lawmakers should do it for them.
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