Clash of Ideology

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Arizona’s draconian immigration law is really the gift that keeps on giving, at least in terms of higher education. MidAmerica Nazarene University, a 1,700-student evangelical Christian college in Olathe, Kansas, planned to host an immigration discussion on July 13th. MidAmerica Nazarene decided to call off the event. According to an article by Meredith Rodriguez in the Kansas City Star:

University President Edwin Robinson said Internet discussions and e-mails he received made him worry about safety as well as the school’s reputation as an impartial place for public discussion.

“I don’t mind a clash of ideology, but the rhetoric on both sides was escalating to the point that I was concerned,” he said.

Perhaps “the rhetoric was escalating” because the event (unsubtly called “Illegal Means Illegal”) had few respected historians, sociologists, or other scholars of immigration.

The only invited speakers, in fact, included Republican Kansas secretary of state candidate Kris Kobach, a longtime immigration opponent who helped write Arizona’s controversial law, and Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. The severe practices of Arpaio, who likes to call himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” have been condemned by organizations like Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arizona Ecumenical Council, and the Arizona chapter of the Anti-Defamation League.

The college emphasized that it was merely hosting the event, the same way it had in the past permitted the use of university facilities “for politically based events which have included visits by local, state, and national candidates from both parties and across the political spectrum”; it in no way endorsed the views of its speakers. Nevertheless, as more people found out about the planned discussion it became increasingly difficult for the school to keep emphasizing that it didn’t have much to do with something occurring right in the center of campus.

The Kobach-Arpaio immigration discussion will now take place at a commercial event space in a Kansas City suburb. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer