What happens when a speaker's freedom of free speech violates my college's core values?
Andrea Tantaros, a regular contributer to Fox News, found out pretty quickly.
Watching the video of the public lecture obtained by The Guilfordian, my college paper, that shows the talk in its entirety left me speechless. Of course a shocking exchange ensued following comments from Tanatoras such as, "Muslims tend to be peaceful only if they are outnumbered."
Tantaros chided Obama's foreign policies and called Islam "a religion of hate." These statements instigated a passionate response as she met her match. Junior Lyes Benarbane, a philosophy major, vigorously opposed what he called "hate speech" by Tantaros and pulled no punches in confronting her. It's hard to be objective in news especially as I was saying to myself, "go Lyes, go!" watching his response.
"You should be patently ashamed of yourself, first and foremost, for even remotely implying the sorts of things you are ... about Islam, I'm baffled first that you were brought here, that you came into this community and spewed this hate," said Benarbane.
"You know you shouldn't have come," said Tantaros cutting him off. "It's a free country."
"I have dialogue with people on the right all the time. Here's the thing," said Benarbane who was cut off again.
"It's a free country. Free speech. But I'm guessing you probably haven't studied the Quran, I have," said Tantaros.
"Actually, I'm actually from an Islamic family. First, first and foremost, I'm actually from an Islamic family and I'm damn proud of the type of person I am," said Benarbane. "First, I'm not a religious person, even if I was..." He was again cut off.
"I can tell," Tantaros deadpanned, regarding Benarbane's lack of religion.
Benarbane said that he felt violated by apparent hate speech. He cannot believe that the college has not spoken up about the talk.
"The college is suppose to be a safe zone," said Benarbane. "This is not a grey area issue, this is not a free speech issue. This is a hate speech issue. It's not only f*cked up it's personally insulting and hurtful."
In a series of political talking points, Tantaros brought up the Democrat's "war on women" and likened government sponsored birth control to helping women buy shoes.
Guilford's College Republicans and Young Americans Foundation, a conservative group, sponsored Tantaros' visit. Two thousand dollars in college funds were used to sponsor her visit.
William Moore, a senior and president of Guilford College Republicans, said that Tantaros was selected after watching videos of her Fox show.
"We originally invited a Republican who was an atheist but that fell through and Andrea was our second choice," said Moore who hoped to hear about fiscal responsibility and jobs coming from the Republican pundit.
Jeremy Rinker, visiting professor of peace and conflict studies, told me that he didn't see the speech; however, Tantaros' comments bordered on hate speech.
"Is it hate speech?" said Rinker. "It's certainly an example of categorizing and dehumanizing an entire culture."
Kent Chabotar, president and professor of political science, said that asking a speaker for an explanation and an appropriate response is usually the best way to clarify an issue.
"Although once a speaker has started, I am unsure how you unstart them," said Chabotar in an e-mail interview. "While I deplore gratuitously offensive speech, as I understand many believed this speech to be, I also value free speech and a diversity of views especially on this campus."
Chabotar told me that the best way to undermine offensive or untrue speech is to respond to the speaker and organizers directly.
Still, we have to ask ourselves if this fringe part of the Republican party actually believes the words that they say? Sadly, I think they do. God help us all.