Penn students deplatform former ICE director

October 30, 2019 • 9:30 am

According to the University of Pennsylvania’s student newspaper, the Daily Pennsylvanian, an event involving acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director Thomas Homan was canceled after Penn students disrupted the proceedings.

The discussion, scheduled to involve several people (see below) was sponsored by Perry World House, self-described as “a center for scholarly inquiry, teaching, research, international exchange, policy engagement and public outreach on pressing global issues.” In other words, it’s a university think tank. A perusal of its website doesn’t indicate that it’s a particularly right-wing organization, but of course if they invite anyone connected with ICE in today’s political climate, they should know what the consequences will be.

Click on the screenshot to read the Daily Penn piece:

An excerpt:

Students wielding signs that read, “Abolish ICE” and “No one is illegal on stolen land,” gathered inside and outside of Perry World House minutes before the “Detention and Deportation from Obama to Trump” event, which was scheduled to take place from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Before the protest, more than 500 students and alumni signed a petition demanding that Penn cancel the event because of controversial policies Homan implemented when he led ICE.

Note that the sign above suggests that there is no such thing as illegal immigration in the U.S., or, to be sure, in many other countries as well. It’s a call for either open borders or no borders. The article continues:

At about 4:45 p.m., protesters lined the outside of the building and sat in the event room filled with attendees. The students inside were chanting, “No hate. No fear. Immigrants are welcome here” and “Go home Homan.”

An official standing in front of the audience attempted to talk about Penn’s First Amendment rights and the event’s intention over the protesters, but they continued chanting.

At about 5 p.m., the speakers — including Homan, former Philadelphia City Solicitor Sozi Tulante, and former ICE Public Advocate Andrew Lorenzen-Strait — walked on stage as the chanting grew louder. Homan was chuckling and talking to Lorenzen-Strait, who was seated next to him. Fifteen minutes later, the speakers were escorted off the stage by an organizer, who announced the event was canceled.

The students cheered as the speakers left, for the students had won, of course. They got what they wanted: the censorship of one individual who represents a policy and an administration they abhor. And Penn allowed the protestors to win. Where was security? Why didn’t administrators remove those who disrupted the event? This would never have happened at the University of Chicago.

The deplatforming occurred after more than 400 Penn alumni and students had signed this petition demanding that Homan’s appearance be canceled. But, of course, there was more just than an objection to a talk, there were the inevitable DEMANDS. These “demands” followed a declaration that Homan’s appearance was inimical to Penn’s mission:

Penn cannot credibly champion diversity and inclusivity, nor can it ethically profit from the contributions of its immigrant community, while being ambivalent to the anti-immigrant animus Homan’s legacy embodies.

Perry World House, a space that claims to “educate the Penn community and prepare students to be well-informed, contributing global citizens,” bears a responsibility to employ judiciousness when choosing speakers to invite to campus. Selecting Homan, whose work and actions directly oppose the goals and values the university claims to uphold, defies Dr. Gutmann’s pledge to Penn’s immigrant students, staff, and faculty.

In this spirit, we demand that:

1. The invitation extended to Thomas Homan for the event on October 23rd be rescinded and the event be cancelled.

2. Penn reassert its commitment to creating a safe learning environment for undocumented students and refrains from inviting current and past ICE and Customs and Border Protection personnel. [JAC: Note that this bans all employees of a government organization, no matter when they were members]

3. Perry World House institutes an advisory board made up of diverse students, faculty, and staff to help create events that are reflective of the needs of all the Penn community. [JAC: what they mean is “reflective of the ideology of the left-wing students”]

4. Given the uncertainty around DACA, Penn commits to creating an immigrant support fund and paying the DACA renewal fees of students, faculty, and staff.

This is simply the tedious and now-familiar repetition of the claims that a University’s must invite only those speakers who uphold the University’s “values,” characterized here as favoring diversity, inclusivity, and a welcome to all immigrants, legal or not.

In contrast, the University of Chicago (I have to brag here), while having a code of conduct that prohibits discrimination and harassment, does not itself profess any specified set of political or ideological values. True, nearly all professors here (and in most schools) align with the Left, but those are the values of individual faculty. That’s why U of C students cannot credibly claim that a given speaker “violates the values that the University upholds.”

The primary value a university should uphold is the value of seeking truth, and going wherever that search should lead.  That itself mandates nearly absolute freedom of speech, or at least a freedom consonant with the U.S. courts’ interpretation of the First Amendment.

Penn failed here miserably. It’s telling that none of the dozen-plus students who protested were willing to go on record to the newspaper, save one who said almost nothing (see below):

“Before the event even began, chanting by some members of the audience made it impossible to hold a constructive conversation. Since our founding, Perry World House has been deeply engaged with the timely and sensitive issue of immigration,” Perry World House Communications Director John Gans wrote in an email to the DP [Daily Pennsylvanian].

“Members of the Penn community may disagree with a particular speaker at these events, but having conversations about those differences is part of what makes universities such as Penn essential locations for free inquiry, free expression, debate, and dialogue,” Gans added.

College junior Erin O’Malley, who participated in the protest, said she was not surprised the event was quickly shut down.

“There are a lot of people who are passionate at Penn,” O’Malley said. “When all these people come together, things like that can definitely happen and usually does happen.”

The gulf between Gans and O’Malley seems unbridgeable. O’Malley, who seems to represent the general sentiment of protestors, completely fails to understand that there’s any value in listening to someone representing a government or agency you dislike.

Many people hold college administrators responsible for student cluelessness about free speech. And indeed, at places like Oberlin, Evergreen State, and Williams College, that may well be true. But there are too many administrators and faculty touting freedom of speech at too many schools to pretend that college students don’t know about the value of such speech. If college administrators have failed at anything, it’s at disciplining those students who prevent others from speaking.

Shame on you, Penn! Although you’re a private school, you’re also an Ivy League school, and should therfore adhere to the First Amendment. Censoring speakers, or rather allowing students to do that, means you’re not doing your job.


55 thoughts on “Penn students deplatform former ICE director

  1. By their logic it would be unfair to allow people into a country that they call racist, misogynist, transphobic, etc.

    They should be at the border turning people away for their own good.

  2. University of Pennsylvania (aka Penn) is a private university (part of the Ivy League). It is in the city of Philadelphia, in the south-eastern part of the state

    It is Pennsylvania State University (aka Penn State) that is the public university; it’s in the middle of the state, in a town appropriately named State College.

  3. I have to ask the question, why was ICE being invited considering the current political reality of the Trump administration? It would be similar to inviting a Pentagon official to speak at your University during Vietnam. Let’s invite this guy to Chicago and see how it goes…

    1. So you agree with the students–anybody in ICE shouldn’t be invited? Even as part of a discussion? I would bet that if he were invited to Chicago, he wouldn’t be deplatformed, for our administration has declared that that would not be tolerated.

      1. I am as free speech as anyone but this is maybe a test to far for most. We are in a terribly split environment here and the operations of ICE under Trump are about as divided as you can get today. Of course we have republicans in congress denigrating a career military officer, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman so maybe anything is possible.

        I suspect Chicago is smart enough to stay away from it.

        1. “We are in a terribly split environment here and the operations of ICE under Trump are about as divided as you can get today.”

          So shouldn’t a university be discussing such issues?

          1. Everything looks good on paper. It is the reality I am more concerned with and I think that is what I said. I am not here to see how much school kids can tolerate when most of the so-called grown ups can’t.

        2. A professor here invited Steve Bannon, and though he didn’t come ultimately (not our decision), the university refused to do anything to condemn or deplatform him. The students may well have protested, but if they tried to disrupt Bannon’s speech they would have punished them. Of that I am certain.

          “I am as free speech as anyone BUT. . . ??” It is the hard cases that make the First Amendment so useful. If we all gareed, we wouldn’t need such an Amendment.

          1. But isn’t Chicago a private school? And if so, they can do what they want, right? My understanding of the free speech part of the first amendment is, it is a guarantee that government will not take away your speech. But it does not say we will protect your speech from all others interference.

            As I have said before, free speech is a restriction on government, not incitement to the people.

            1. Does your view of free speech include being able to stop others from speaking to a willing audience at a willing venue? If so, you do not believe in free speech, you believe in speech approved by mobs. You’re not in good company.

    2. Because he served in an extremely powerful position in a Presidential administration. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his or the administration’s policies, it is valuable to hear from such people. They have an enormous effect on our country’s and the world’s affairs.

      I don’t like Henry Kissinger, but that doesn’t mean there’s no value in hearing him speak. Homan was invited because, like any person who held a position as powerful as his, there is much important and interesting information to glean from them.

      1. I don’t disagree with your perspective, though I would qualify it:

        such people MAY be valuable to hear from;
        and they MAY have valuable information to share.

        Too often these are not the case. But by all means let them speak.

      2. I do not argue with your conclusion just the creation of the situation in the first place. The Obama’s just did a summit in Chicago and one of the things Obama said concerning the woke generation. He said, there are white people out there who do not like black people and I cannot make them like black people. So get over your own special concerns for every little thing. At many of the colleges today they would probably want to throw him out for saying such a thing. And also, why should the kids be ready to discuss immigration when we can’t even discuss it in congress.

        1. Well, I certainly agree with all of that, but the only way to make this stop is to (1) stop allowing students to disrupt talks from anyone they don’t like, and (2) add more diversity of viewpoint to curricula. If we stop having speakers because we know certain students will try to disrupt them from speaking, we’re just giving in to those students. I also fear that, in giving in to such students, the problem will only get worse

          1. If we think we can adjust the behavior of the students by simply forcing controversial topics and guest speakers on them, I don’t see that is going to get it done. How much security do we want to pay for in this effort? Legislating behavior can be a difficult goal. Is our schools where this line should be drawn on free speech? We need a comprehensive immigration policy that is currently in a mess. Having some person at some college has little to do with that.

            1. I think one of the things colleges should be teaching students is how to have conversations about subjects like immigration like adults.

              I think it’s less a question of how much security is needed and more how much disciplining. If the colleges were actually willing to hand out disciplinary actions for disruption like this, students would be far less likely to engage in it.

            2. Nobody’s forcing controversial speakers on them, though. The student protesters could ignore the event, but they go out of their way to protest and shut it down.

            3. The only adjustment we are requiring of the students is that they not infringe on the rights of others by interposing themselves between willing speakers and listeners. Is that really too much to ask?

    1. That was great. I’ve always felt like Obama was the first President since Carter who genuinely cared about people, including people form the “other side.” I don’t think he’s nearly up to Carter’s level in this, but he was never just a power-hungry man who wanted to be President. He seems to genuinely care about the welfare of all people, even those who might hate him.

      I only say he’s not up to Carter’s level in this because I don’t think anyone can come close to reaching Carter’s level. Ever since his Presidency, all Carter has done is go around the world helping people, and doing so in ways people rarely, if ever, notice. That man just wants to help as many people as he can for as long as he has on this planet.

      Obama’s joke about watching “Grown-ish” was particularly funny.

      1. “all Carter has done is go around the world helping people”

        Is this the same Carter who wrote a book comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and actually claimed “Israel’s policies are worse than South Africa’s”?

        The same Carter who wrote that due to “powerful political, economic, and religious forces in the U.S., Israeli government decisions are rarely questioned or condemned, voices from Jerusalem dominate our media.”? Jewish media conspiracy, where have we heard that before?

        The same Carter who when teaching Sunday school repeatedly raised the question of the Jews’ role in Jesus’s death?

        I feel like Jews would do better without any help from Carter and his ilk.

  4. I was reading Alan Taylor’s American Colonies: The Settling of North America the other week, when the thought occured to me that, whether Spanish, French, Swedish, Dutch, or English/British, colonists were just immigrants. That makes them ok, right?

    1. The depressing part is that they’re not learning the art of persuasion. You get absolutely nothing done in the real world without it.

      It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes these extremely left students are invited on TV(usually because their deplatforming tactics have gone viral and become a news story) to debate an advocate of free speech. And almost without exception they get their arses handed to them.

      There’s a particular expression they always have when they’re getting pummeled in live debate: it’s an expression of bewilderment. They look completely unprepared for all counterarguments – they look like they’ve not even heard most of the arguments in favour of free speech.
      That is what happens when debate is not encouraged. Unsurprisingly students become shit at debating.

      1. I have heard of some, but very few well-reasoned woke arguments. They are by and large full of emotion, hyperbole and a laundry list of fallacies. The only good one I have heard was the rebuttal to the argument that “All lives matter”, when one is discussing the Black Lives Matter movement. I won’t repeat it now, but I thought the counter to that was right on.

        1. I actually think plenty of ‘woke’ arguments are basically reasonable – it’s just that the people who usually represent woke ideology are incapable of making the case for their side because they’ve had absolutely no practise at the art of debate – their tutors and lecturers do not regard any of the social justice issues as open to question, which means the students never learn how to defend them from attack or make the case for them in the face of scepticism.

          There’s nothing inherently wrong with recognising that white privilege exists. But when you start talking like it’s a settled issue, and when you start hectoring people, and assuming that they have to agree with you or they’re Bad People…then you lose the argument before it’s started.

          It needs to be drummed into social justice students that you get nowhere and change nothing without persuading people. And persuasion is different from wagging fingers – in fact, most of the time it’s the opposite.

    2. They won’t have to. They have taken this new approach into the world with them. They now comprise diversity consultants and HR departments all over the western world. These new values are going to cause a lot of harm.

  5. The “no one is illegal on stolen land” isn’t a slogan/argument I’ve heard before, but makes a great deal of sense given their world view. I’d wonder how they quantify what counts as “stolen” land, and when. Also, why would a grievance between two parties, in this instance European settlers and American natives, give the right to third parties to … dare I say “colonize” the United states?

    1. Stolen *is* literally true of much of NA, since most Native American groups did not recognize land ownership in anything like the way the Europeans did, so the treaties (even when not ignored, which is another problem) are likely in a way null. What is the role of mens rea in contracts?

      What effect this has now? Good question – but that does not stop the principles to be considered.

      1. No one alive today is responsible for that “theft”, a term in itself which is debatable. So, except for understanding history, how is it relevant today? To me that slogan is a throw away phrase, signifying little else than belligerence.

        1. “So, except for understanding history, how is it relevant today?”

          First of all, understanding history is pretty important. And secondly it would behoove some of the people on Fox News currently smearing a purple heart awardee as a ‘spy'(simply because he spent the first three years of his life elsewhere) to understand that they aren’t as native to America as they seem to believe.

          When they talk about immigrants ‘invading’ America they seem to have absolutely no historical perspective whatsoever, and no real humility. Same goes for UKIP and Britain First and AFD and Le Front National, etc.

          If everybody in the world who believes that they’re a ‘proper native’ understood just how flimsy and transient their particular claim to national identity is things would improve dramatically.

          1. His point is that historical grievances are not a reasonable or even relevant way to adjudicate legal matters between third parties in any society, including who is or is not a legal resident/citizen, especially when the people in question don’t even have anything to do with the historical grievance.
            The fact that Native Americans in many cases replaced genetically distinct peoples in order to occupy the lands that Europenas later took form them, is completely irrelevant as to whether the Europeans treated said natives justly or not. In the view of activists it should be relevant as no one can be illegal on stolen land, therefore how could the native Americans possibly object to the Europeans moving in? And the whole thing about the Native Americans having no concept of land ownership is nonsense, oh they had different ideas about land ownership due to the realities of their societies, but tribes certainly held land to the exclusion of other tribes via politically sanctioned violence.

            1. Yes and they fought wars over control of their lands too, but it cannot be denied that many tribes had very different ideas about land ownership than Europeans. It is my understanding that most did not see land in terms of “property” but rather as a resource to be protected…or coveted…but not owned.

              Anyway, it seems to me that the many ways of mythologizing Native Americans diminishes them, makes them seen somehow less human. It’s not fair and it’s not respectful, almost infantilizing (is that even a word?).

              1. Take the groups that lived near where I am, in Ottawa. The *group* owned the land, not individuals – sort of like a co-op. Moreover, when they proclaimed what Europeans called treaties, they traditionally understood the result to mean “you, too, can fish and hunt and gather here”. Not “you can wall things off and keep others out”. *That’s* not familiar to Europeans – of a certain place and time there too, of course.

          2. I understand what you’re saying but I think what you say about “proper natives” is nonsense. I was born and raised here, I am a proper native. So are all who are born and raised here. That is in no way a flimsy or transient claim.

            It is entirely possible to hold both these ideas; while I am a native American, anyone who immigrates here and becomes a citizen is ALSO an American, though not native.

            In an attempt to head off any games with terminology, I deliberately did not capitalize “native” above. I am as native an American as most (but not all) Native Americans.

            1. “I understand what you’re saying but I think what you say about “proper natives” is nonsense. I was born and raised here, I am a proper native. So are all who are born and raised here. That is in no way a flimsy or transient claim.”

              I’m not saying anything about being a ‘proper native’ – it’s the hardcore anti-immigration right who say such things. It’s those people who talk about the degree to which someone is ‘genuinely’ American or not.

              So of course you’re going to think it’s ‘nonsense’. That was my whole point – that having debates about the degree to which someone is a ‘proper’ American/Brit/etc is incredibly ugly. And in the case of white Americans it’s a game they’ll also lose, given that there are people who have been in America longer.

              “That is in no way a flimsy or transient claim.”

              It’s a very flimsy claim if you actually start grading people on how long their ancestors have been here – which is what a lot of reactionaries and racists do. In those cases there will always be some group who has been in the country longer than yours, which is why it’s vital _not to play that game in the first place._.

        2. Anything is debatable. Even if the Native Americans–a whole, of course, of which their many parts were not completely aware–considered the Anglo-Americans and other Europeans–rightly so, as I believe–to be thieves of their homelands, there’s another way of looking at the matter:

          What was claimed by England, France, Spain, Netherlands, etc., was SOVEREIGNTY the New World. And sovereignty meant ownership by the various crowns that ‘claimed’ the land in their own names, land which the owners then disposed of by granting or selling it to individuals or corporations to own in turn. None of this was in any sense legally testable, since there was no international law or tribunal to adjudicate the claims. None, that is, save negotiation and war among the Europeans themselves–done as if no other human beings were on the three continents before the first ships from Europe arrived!

          I remember trying to make a similar point here a couple of years back. If I recall rightly, a poster with the handle Mordacious shot back: might makes right.

        3. Responsible? Perhaps. Benefit from the injustice, oh, yes! (And I include myself.)

          For example, my very place of living and work would not exist if such an injustice had not happened. Nor would I likely even *exist*.

    2. I don’t see much wrong with the slogan.
      Not every political catchphrase is going to be perfectly, unimpeachably precise in its meaning or intent.
      Look at ‘make love not war’. That slogan is logistically unrealistic and militarily irresponsible when put into practice by actual armed forces. Nevertheless people got the gist.

      I read the ‘no-one is illegal’ slogan as a gentle nudge in the ribs to those who instinctively feel that only white people are real Americans – and there are a lot of those people around.

      I do wonder how native Americans must feel when they hear Trump blathering on about sending black and brown people back ‘to their own countries’, when his ancestors have been in America for…how long? A century? A bit more?

  6. They could have stuck to their pre 5:00 activities. IMO those and the pre-“demand” (taken as a request) are ok; once the decision is made, though, no disruption.

    That said, there is an interesting twist in my head here (probably comes from my profession, where my job is to ensure people do what they are claiming, in a way). It seems to me that if a campus policy exists that makes for something like a “safe space” (with appropriate characterization) and the policy is clearly being ignored, its redress mechanism *can* and *should be* appealed to by students or whoever else to ensure the policy gets applied.

    In this situation, however, I see no evidence that ought to have any effect – the inclusion etc. statements are not that restrictive.

  7. Hate speech in our current era:

    The idea of society (in contrast to defining deviance down).

    The idea of neutral laws that should apply to everyone equally (as compared to double standards based on which identity boxes you can check off).

    The idea of borders (instead of letting international terrorists, human traffickers, and drug cartels operate with impunity).

    The idea of law enforcement to enforce laws and borders (instead of vigilante mobs of cultural revolutionaries).

    1. That’s all considered “hate speech” is it?

      Odd that you’re using it yourself then, without anyone stopping you, without any actual negative consequences of any kind. It’s almost as though you’re massively exaggerating.

      1. I don’t think I’m exaggerating, when a former ICE director, charged with enforcing laws passed by Congress, is called out for doing their job.

        Putting aside what our immigration laws or immigration enforcement should be, ICE follows laws legislated through our Congress.

        If someone doesn’t like our immigration laws, then the means of change is to pass legislation through Congress, not demonize federal employees doing their jobs.

        What part of ICE do people object to?

        Democratic elections?

        Laws passed by democratically elected officials?

        Law enforcement neutrally attempting to enforce law passed by Congress (instead of acting like the Mafia)?

        1. This is the illiberal left in action, hostile to the basic ideas of democracy, rule of law, and a neutral, non-politicized civil service.

          [Oh, but that’s what Trump does–okay, so its the Trumpian Left who look up to Trump as their teacher.]

          The fact that many people have zero faith in the Jacobins and their self-anointed commissars to police “hate speech” should come as no surprise.

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