Rutgers indefinitely postpones contested speaker after stating the event would proceed
Just days after publicly supporting investigative journalist and editor-in-chief of The Foreign Desk Lisa Daftari amid student backlash, Rutgers has decided to indefinitely postpone her talk originally scheduled for next week.
In a statement to The Daily Targum, University spokesperson Neal Buccino said Rutgers had decided to postpone the lecture. He did not provide any information or timeline regarding it potentially being rescheduled.
Daftari, a regular on Fox News as an on-air political analyst, was the subject of a change.org petition started earlier this week by School of Arts and Sciences senior and co-president of RU Progressive Adeel Ahmed, who created it in protest of her speaking event titled “Radicalism on College Campuses.”
The petition currently has more than 1,600 signatures.
In a tweet yesterday, Daftari said the postponement of the event, referred to as such by the University’s public relations, is meant to say cancellation.
“Let’s be clear- this was not a 'postponement'- that is public relations talk for a cowardly cancellation. (Rutgers) told me the event was canceled,” she said in the tweet.
In an email to The Targum, Daftari said it was the University’s decision to call off the event, an announcement that she said did not sit well with her.
“I was very much looking forward to going back to my alma mater to speak on issues that affect all students on campus. The irony being that I was supposed to address the freedom of speech on campus and was instead, silenced. This was very upsetting. The campaign launched against me was unethical and defamatory. Most of all it was a big loss for Rutgers students and for free speech,” she said.
In a statement to the Targum following the event being postponed, Ahmed said he supported the decision.
"I'm glad the University chose to do the right thing," he said. "Our commitment is to intellectual openness and does not include a university department, which is supposed to objectively represent the interests of all students, to host someone who has gone on the record saying hateful things and pushing anti-Muslim stereotypes."
Days after the petition was started, Rutgers Undergraduate Academic Affairs (UAA) defended its decision to host Daftari stating that the goal of its Speaker Series is to invite speakers on campus that will spark a dialogue about what students are learning in class, according to a Twitter post.
UAA clarified that Daftari would discuss radicalism on college campuses as it applies to polarizing or extreme views.
Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Ben Sifuentes-Jauregui said Daftari provided UAA with information saying the talk will be "focusing on free speech" and facilitating a conversation around the question "how can we use our college campuses as a place for learning, thinking and leadership rather than violence, hatred and radicalism," according to The Targum.
At the time, he added the event is doing everything he initially hoped it would by engaging students in tough conversations. He said he would never want any student to feel marginalized and is doing his best to create an environment that allows for these types of discussions.