Editorial: WSU president showed courage in Ivanka flap
What to make of the imbroglio around Wichita State University president Jay Golden?
To recap, presidential daughter Ivanka Trump was briefly invited to deliver a virtual commencement speech to graduates of WSU Tech. After an outcry from students and staff, lent urgency by national protests against racist policy, Golden rescinded the younger Trump’s invitation.
The outcry from high-profile fundraisers and supporters of the university was immediate, with those connected to Koch Industries and Pizza Hut voicing their displeasure. Ivanka Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in, also criticizing the decision.
Some vociferous voices called for Golden’s removal.
But after a lengthy meeting, the Kansas Board of Regents declined to do so. They and Golden issued separate statements supporting free speech, along with diversity and inclusion. Koch voiced displeasure but said it would continue funding the commitments it made to the school.
Here’s the thing: Golden made the right call. Universities ultimately serve students, not donors. If students raise their voices in calling for change, higher education institutions should listen. Even those with extravagant wealth, such as the Koch family, don’t get to call the shots — unless they choose to open their own university (although perhaps we shouldn’t be giving them ideas).
Let’s also dispense with the notion that disinviting Ivanka Trump had anything to do with freedom of speech or discussion. That’s nonsense.
Her remarks were released to the public soon after the controversy, and they’re viewable by anyone with an internet connection. She or her father have abundant opportunity to reach the public through social media and public appearances. They both have arguably more opportunity to speak and be heard than the vast majority of Americans.
No, what students and staff objected to was connecting Wichita State to that of a U.S. president with a history of racially charged statements and his daughter, whose prime qualification for giving a public speech is genetic.
There’s no reason that WSU should lift them up if it chooses not to.
Yes, the college and its president may still face consequences. But standing on principle, even if inconvenient, should be noted. Inviting the speech in the first place was likely a mistake. Making it right took courage and a willingness to stand up to powerful interests. That’s worthy of praise, not condemnation.