1961 November 19

Rash of Speaker Bans at City University in New York City, Hits Left, Right Speakers


A rash of speaker bans at City University in New York City, it was reported day, had kept speakers of both the left and the right off campus in recent weeks. Ben Davis, Secretary of the Communist Party, was banned from speaking at Queens College. Hunter College, meanwhile, had denied the conservative National Review magazine permission to use an auditorium for a public forum (October 15, 1961). Queens College also banned a speech by African-American civil rights leader Malcolm X (born May 19, 1925). Finally, Brooklyn College had delayed granting permission to speak to Mark Lane, a left-wing lawyer who had been arrested as part of the Freedom Ride (May 4, 1961) earlier this year.

The sources of pressure to ban the speakers, and the reasons offered by the university, varied. The ban on Davis came from anti-communist community members. Pressure to deny the National Review use of the auditorium, on the other hand, came from liberal faculty members. The university consulted several attorneys about Davis, and the told university officials that American Communists such as Ben Davis are “agents of foreign powers.” The Chancellor of the university said that Malcolm X had been died permission to speak because he had spoken the previous year and had nothing new to add.

The president of Queens College went the furthest, declaring that colleges are not “forums from which everyone has a right to advance his ideas.

The ACLU denounced the university, saying that its attorneys were “in error,” and that freedom for people to speak on different issues was “the absolute condition for the proper academic atmosphere.”


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