According to a fawning profile in New Hampshire’s Union Leader Sunday, after Lauren Batchelder, a student at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, questioned Donald Trump at a Republican candidates’ debate about equal pay for women and abortion rights, Trump outed her on Twitter as a staffer for Jeb Bush – whereupon, Batchelder claims, she received death threats from all over the country. “Campus security at Saint Anselm was incredibly supportive, she said” – which is ironic, since if Saint Anselm administrators had been consistent, Batchelder would have been expelled: in an ugly demonstration of how only the Leftist point of view is acceptable on campuses nationwide these days, Saint Anselm last year banned me from the campus on the pretext that I have received death threats.
Saint Anselm claims to be a Catholic college, but it is actually just another center for Leftist indoctrination, with a veneer of Pope Francis-type Catholicism. Batchelder’s pro-abortion stance didn’t trouble them at all – but my own opposition to jihad terror, violating as it does so many politically correct shibboleths, troubled them a great deal.
The sorry story unfolded this way. Several years ago, a student group invited me to speak at Saint Anselm. The event was going ahead and posters were being put up advertising the talk when Saint Anselm’s then-President, Father Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B., canceled my appearance, reportedly citing complaints he had received from Muslim students at the school. Islamic groups, like their Leftist allies, share a taste for shutting down their foes rather than engaging their ideas, and Fr. DeFelice was happy to oblige them.
The following year, after Fr. DeFelice was replaced as President of the college by Dr. Steven R. DiSalvo, and Saint Anselm’s philosophy department tried again to get me on campus, inviting me to be the guest speaker at a symposium. But DiSalvo nixed that appearance as well. Several Saint Anselm professors balked at this, complaining to DiSalvo that colleges were supposed to be centers of free inquiry and intellectual engagement, and that he was acting contrary to what institutions of higher learning were supposed to be all about by banning points of view in line with political correctness.
Cornered, DiSalvo found an excuse: he was all for free inquiry and unpopular opinions (the unpopular question in my case being the rather obvious point that Islam is not really a religion of peace), but he just couldn’t allow me to speak on campus because I had received death threats. He explained that, were I to be present on campus, Saint Anselm students would be endangered – what if a violent extremist were to burst onto campus while I was speaking?
Absurd. Since I first began receiving death threats, I have spoken at universities nationwide, including UCLA, Temple, Penn State, UNC, UVA, Dartmouth, DePaul University, SUNY in both Binghamton and Stony Brook, Brown, Cal Poly, and many, many others. When people who have threatened appear in public, they generally are in the company of security personnel who are equipped and prepared to deal with any incident. Why Saint Anselm considered any kind of security arrangements to be inadequate, DiSalvo didn’t explain, leaving open the question: why is Saint Anselm College so much more unsafe than all other campuses? Other colleges and universities nationwide can and do host speakers who have been threatened, and take measures to ensure everyone’s safety. Saint Anselm, by its own admission, can’t do that.
But as implausible as it was, DiSalvo stuck with his security excuse. And so, on one swing back up to New England last summer, however, I was asked to appear on a Fox News show, but a Fox producer told me that I couldn’t do the segment from the Videolink at Saint Anselm’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP), as she had been told that I was not welcome to use the Videolink there. This was based on the same pretext: because I have received death threats, my presence constituted a danger to the students.
Since I doubt that everyone who has received death threats is banned from Saint Anselm College (and indeed, Donald Trump spoke there after receiving highly publicized death threats over his proposed Muslim immigration moratorium), I went to the college to try to find out why, only to be violently confronted by a security guard, James Stankiewicz, who became hysterical and unhinged, and assaulted me when I asked him mildly if the NHIOP received public funding. I was then banned from going onto the campus altogether, on pain of arrest. When I wrote politely to Neil Levesque, the head of the NHIOP, which was directly responsible for the ban, asking for information about why I was banned and for a list of who else had been banned from campus for receiving death threats, he had a corrupt cop from the Goffstown, New Hampshire police department threaten me with arrest if I contacted Levesque again.
This is how a Leftist “institution of higher learning” deals with dissenting points of view these days. Only one point of view is allowed: when I received death threats, I was banned from Saint Anselm College, but when Lauren Batchelder received death threats, she received protection from the same college, even though her opinions oppose its stated principles -- but not from contemporary Leftist fashion. Batchelder can only hope she doesn’t get Jim Stankiewicz mad.
What is happening at Saint Anselm College is happening at colleges and universities all over the country nowadays: deviate from the hard-Left line, and you will be brutalized, roughed up, and threatened with arrest. The idea that Saint Anselm College or any similar institution in the U.S. today is actually an institute of higher learning, rather than simply an indoctrination center for the authoritarian Left, operated by thugs with no respect for civil discourse, is absurd.
Saint Anselm College, like so many other outposts of American academia, has swiftly descended from the days when ideas could be entertained and dismissed on their merits alone. But as ridiculous as it is, the contention of DiSalvo and Levesque that those who have been threatened should not venture onto campus should be taken at face value. Anyone else who has received death threats and goes to Saint Anselm should know that there they are exposed and vulnerable. Who wants to be on a campus that claims that it can’t take elementary security measures?
It’s high time to drain the swamp, in academia as well as in the political realm.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Iran. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.