Olsen: SHSU welcomes differing perspectives

Earlier this month, Andrew Fastow, former Chief Financial Officer of Enron, canceled his appearance at Sam Houston State University after five professors publicly objected to his visit by submitting a letter to The Houstonian, stating that, among other complaints, “Fastow’s appearance at SHSU only helps him profit from his criminality”.

He was invited to the “Rules vs. Principles” event put together by members of the SHSU accounting department and Compliance Officer Joseph Agins to discuss business ethics and his role in one of the biggest corporate collapses in American history. It is no surprise that his appearance at SHSU would trigger some tension from certain staff and students since families all across the United States were affected by the collapse of Enron.

However, many students, faculty, and alumni feel college campuses are supposed to be a place where controversial events and ideas are discussed.

Nationwide, there has been a rise of universities disinviting college guest speakers since 2014, due to objections by faculty, students, staff and interest groups.

Several universities have adopted new policies regarding guest speakers since recent college campus protests, such as Middlebury College, which saw intense protesting at a speaking event for author Charles Murray.

According to the school’s new policy, proposed events will be evaluated by a Threat Assessment and Management Team; if the team feels that an event attracts an “imminent and credible threat to the community”, it could be canceled.

This has students and faculty asking the question: Are universities a place where controversial ideas are discussed, or a place where too much controversy or particular ideas should not be allowed?

“SHSU encourages an open dialogue and welcomes differing perspectives,” SHSU Director of Marketing and Communication Jeff Olsen said. “Discussion and debate are an important part of the learning process.”

Fastow, himself, decided to cancel his appearance and that there were no actual threats of protests or violence for his speech at Sam.

“The university will only cancel a guest appearance if the event poses a threat to student safety or disrupts the academic process,” Olsen said.

Guest speakers make up a majority of special events hosted by Sam, though the school has carefully selected who it invites in official capacities.

Another noteworthy speaker is headed to campus in the coming weeks, though this time free from any controversy. Steve Pemberton is coming to share his “Story of Resilience” in the President’s Speaker Series on Oct. 31 at 10 a.m. in the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center’s Payne Concert Hall.

To stay up-to-date on future public speaker appearances visit Today@Sam.

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