Davidson College staff apol­o­gized after moving loca­tions for a lecture from a former Hillsdale College history pro­fessor on Monday. YAF Foun­dation | Courtesy.

Davidson College staff apol­o­gized after moving loca­tions for a lecture from a former Hillsdale College history pro­fessor on Monday, calling his speech not “aca­demic related” and gaining national attention.

Davidson’s chapter of the Young Amer­icans for Freedom invited Burt Folsom, now a dis­tin­guished fellow of Hillsdale, to speak about the history of entre­pre­neurship in America. Chapter pres­ident, senior Andrew Becker, received an email that stated the event was being moved to a less prominent place on campus because a three-person staff approval com­mittee had deter­mined it was not suited for the purpose of the requested location.

“The McKay Atrium is reserved for more aca­demic related events that are campus wide and attract a broad audience,” the email, which the national Young America’s Foun­dation posted on Twitter, said.


<block­quote class=“twitter-tweet” data-conversation=“none” data-lang=“en”><p lang=“en” dir=“ltr”>Here&#39;s <a href=“”>@DavidsonCollege</a>&#39;s email where they &quot;denied&quot; <a href=“”>@YAF_Davidson</a>&#39;s request to host Dr. <a href=“”>@BurtFolsom</a> in the McCay atrium for a claimed lack of aca­demic sub­stance. Yes he spoke, but only after being denied in a sloppy attempt to sup­press con­ser­v­ative ideas. <a href=“”></a></p>&mdash; YAF (@yaf) <a href=“”>April 24, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Mark Johnson, Davidson com­mu­ni­ca­tions and college mar­keting officer, told The Col­legian that there was a “com­mu­ni­cation break down inter­nally within the college,” causing the response. He said Davidson has wel­comed YAF speakers in the past and that there was never a time when Davidson would not hold the event.

“It was absolutely an aca­demic event,” Johnson said. “Dr. Folsom is a dis­tin­guished pro­fessor. This is a campus com­mitted to free inquiry that wel­comes speakers of all per­spective, beliefs, and back­grounds.”


<block­quote class=“twitter-tweet” data-conversation=“none” data-lang=“en”><p lang=“en” dir=“ltr”>No one at Davidson denied Dr. <a href=“”>@BurtFolsom</a> the oppor­tunity to speak at any time.  He spoke last night. Davidson College is founded on a com­munity of trust and free inquiry. We welcome speakers of all view­points and expect our stu­dents to do the same. <a href=“”>@YAF_Davidson</a> <br>Full statement: <a href=“”></a></p>&mdash; Davidson College (@DavidsonCollege) <a href=“”>April 24, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Folsom received his doc­torate in American history from the Uni­versity of Pitts­burgh and has taught for 40 years at various insti­tu­tions, including Murray State Uni­versity, the Uni­versity of Nebraska, Northwood Uni­versity, and the Uni­versity of Pitts­burgh. He also has pub­lished 10 books on various his­torical sub­jects with the Johns Hopkins Uni­versity Press, Harper­Collins, and Simon & Schuster. His “New Deal or Raw Deal?: How FDR’s Eco­nomic Legacy Has Damaged America” was a No. 1 best­seller history book.

The email sent on April 18 instructed Becker that the event would be held in a location that the college’s tech ser­vices team does not support for audio and visual. Becker then on Friday requested a room in a classroom building, and he received an apology from the com­mittee that denied his original request on Monday.

Becker said he feels the incident was blown out of pro­portion after the national YAF began pub­li­cizing Davidson’s denial.

“The whole sit­u­ation is largely the product of a bunch of mis­un­der­standings and mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tions,” Becker told The Col­legian. “My biggest regret is that we had a low turnout, because we started pro­moting our event so late. The speaker did a fan­tastic job expounding upon the his­torical suc­cesses of free market entre­pre­neurship, and his ani­mated and engaging style was a clear success with the audience. He did not dis­ap­point.”

Folsom said despite the low turnout, he was happy to speak with the stu­dents and answer ques­tions they had about early cap­i­talist and entre­pre­neurial titans, including John D. Rock­e­feller, Andrew Carnegie, and Cor­nelius Van­derbilt as well as the Wright brothers.

“We don’t know what was in their hearts,” Folsom told The Col­legian. “It’s pos­sible this was an innocent error. They cer­tainly made it dif­ficult.”

The sit­u­ation, on which Fox News reported on Monday night, follows a long string of instances across the country in which col­leges or pro­testers have pre­vented guest lec­turers, typ­i­cally those who are right of center, from speaking on campus.

“I think what we’re seeing it absolutely tragic,” Folsom told The Col­legian. “When I began my teaching career 40 years ago, if you were a con­ser­v­ative, you were out­num­bered, but you were given a place at the table. It’s all about emotion now. Stu­dents have a right to be val­i­dated in their views.”

Folsom now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, Anita, and near his son. He is pur­suing research projects and speaking on many college cam­puses across the country. On May 7, Folsom will speak at a lun­cheon spon­sored by Hillsdale College in Madison, Wis­consin.