Angela Davis, a renowned activist and author. Her event at Butler was cancelled without student organizers’ input. Photo courtesy of Trident Booksellers and Cafe.
A NOTE FROM THE EDITORS: This letter to the editor was published by The Butler Collegian after numerous rounds of fact-checking. The Collegian relied on evidence sourced from email conversations, text messages and phone calls to verify the fact of cancelation. The opinions contained in this letter are those of the author. The Butler Collegian is committed to sharing diverse viewpoints from across the university and is committed to upholding values of free speech, but does not endorse or promote opinions contained within any letter to the editor. The Collegian will continue to investigate and share more information with the community as it becomes available to us.
Correction: The original editor’s note stated that The Collegian relied on evidence sourced from email conversations, text conversations, and phone calls to “verify the opinions in this letter.” The Collegian would like to clarify that this editorial board verified only the fact of cancelation in the original letter that contributed to the author’s statement. Additionally, the author was originally labeled as a Guest Contributor, but she does not work for The Collegian. The Collegian realizes that the previous statement was misleading and regrets these miscommunication errors.
ROUA DAAS | firstname.lastname@example.org
On March 29, without warning or discussion, Butler University administration canceled an event titled “Joint Struggle and Collective Liberation,” which featured a conversation with the revolutionary author, abolitionist and anti-racist activist Angela Davis. The administration abruptly and unilaterally canceled the event without the input of – and without even notifying – the student leaders who spent four months of tireless planning, coordination and collaboration on the event.
The event, which was set to take place on April 1, sought to highlight the advancements against racism and state violence against Black, Indigenous, People of Color, commonly written as BIPOC. It was to be hosted by the Butler Student Government Association, and co-sponsored by the Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department, the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement and the Diversity Center.
The world-renowned political activist, author and philosopher was anticipated to discuss topics such as antiracism, U.S. and international solidarity movements and the impacts of policing on communities of color, which would have been an unparalleled opportunity for Butler students to learn from and speak with a true Civil Rights icon and prominent leader in intersectional social justice movements.
Butler staff and administration gave an array of inconsistent and unfounded justifications for its racist and authoritative cancelation: “failure to follow procedure,” “too high of an honorarium” and “inappropriate timing.” Currently, they are claiming that due to obscure procedural errors, this event must be postponed and will not occur this school year. Although a statement released by the Student Government Association stated that the event will be postponed, Angela Davis’ team, along with the behind-the-scenes conversations with university officials, indicated that the contract had been terminated and the event was canceled.
Students working on the event have planned countless past events for which these procedures have not been enforced. The decision to arbitrarily enforce these procedures now is an attempt to specifically censor Angela Davis. It is grounded in the school’s history of racism and highlights the lack of genuine support for students of color, academic freedom and political engagement at Butler University, a predominantly-white institution.
Days before Butler University’s shameless censorship of Angela Davis, the Student Government Association was bombarded by pressure from Zionist students who claimed to oppose Davis’ event because of her support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement — a grassroots demand for nonviolent economic pressure against Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestine. This is not the first time this school year that these students have attempted to silence free speech and prevent political events on campus. Many will recall failed attempts this past fall to use student senate resolutions to cancel student organization events and place limits on topics that could be discussed.
This is also not the first time that Zionists have attempted to deplatform Angela Davis for her supportive stance on Palestine. Whether it be the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Northeastern University or Butler University, institutions which silence the voices of Black radicals such as Davis are complicit in the systems of racism and oppression which hurt BIPOC people within and beyond Butler University.
Simply put, Butler administrators are trying to silence marginalized voices in order to maintain systems of power and privilege. While Butler University claims to be an institution that supports diversity, equity and inclusion, their actions speak otherwise. In the face of opposition, they immediately rescinded support for their students of color and allowed unfounded complaints to derail a major student-organized event to the detriment of the entire Butler community.
Members of Butler University’s academic community, as well as allied members of the Indianapolis community, released a statement demanding that the Butler Administration formally apologize to Dr. Angela Davis and immediately reinstate and affirm their support of the event.