The University of Connecticut School of Law Student Bar Association released a resolution Monday accusing University President Susan Herbst of directly asking UConn Law Dean Timothy Fisher to postpone an April 2 event titled “Rise in Adversity: Islamophobia & Antisemitism” with political activist and guest speaker Linda Sarsour as the main guest and speaker.
“On Thursday, March 14, University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst ordered the Dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law, Timothy Fisher, to unilaterally postpone a student event on Islamophobia featuring Linda Sarsour,” the resolution said.
UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said the administration worked with Fisher and student organizers, amongst other security personnel, to organize an event with a speaker on both Islamophobia and antisemitism. The administration first reminded student organizers to follow the standard event review process put in place after conservative blogger Lucian Wintrich was arrested at an event in 2017, Reitz said.
After the administration worked with student organizers, a program with two speakers was scheduled and agreed upon. Shortly after this agreement, the speaker on antisemitism cancelled, leaving just Sarsour to present.
“Thereafter, the administration learned that the speaker on antisemitism was not available. At this point, on the eve of spring break, the administration concluded that there would not be enough time to find a replacement speaker for that portion of the program,” Reitz said. “Consequently, the decision was made that the event should be postponed until the fall.”
The Student Bar Association claims, however, that Herbst was the one behind the cancellation and forced Fisher to take the blame.
“[Fisher] was told that he had to take responsibility for cancelling the event,” the resolution said. “The Dean complied, but backed down days later after student activism threatened to put UConn in a bad light.”
On Thursday, Fisher apologized in an email Wednesday night to those in the law school community for his role in the planning of the event.
“This was an error in judgment and in execution on my part. I moved far too hastily in postponing the event, and I take full responsibility for my error,” the email said. “At the very least, I should have consulted with the faculty of the Law School. Going forward I will make sure that decisions of importance to the faculty and to the students are made more collectively, and that mechanisms are in place to make sure that the free speech values that animate life on our campus are protected...I am deeply sorry for the way I handled the event, and apologize to the entire Law School community.”
Fisher’s role was to inform students that the event would not be happening when the original speaker on antisemitism cancelled, Reitz said. He also worked with the UConn administration and student organizers to set boundaries of the event and discuss security measures, amongst other logistical issues.
UConn School of Law Student Bar Association President Glenn Holmes said the group suspects an outside source to be behind why they think Herbst wanted the event cancelled.
“Based on conversations from staff, essentially, as well as student organizers, it seems like there’s some kind of external pressure whether it be a donor or a Board of Trustee or someone who did not want to see Linda Sarsour come to campus,” Holmes said.
Sarsour was scheduled to speak in March 2018 at the UConn Storrs campus, but the event was cancelled due to weather.
Luke Hajdasz is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.