While expressing a commitment to “free speech and civil discourse,” the president of Virginia Tech announced today that Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley will be speaking at an upcoming lecture, after all. Earlier this week, it was reported that the head of the Virginia Tech Finance Department had vetoed a speaking arrangement between the school and Riley because he had “written about race issues” and the school was “still recovering” from the last lecture delivered by a conservative.
National Review broke the story on Monday, spurring a barrage of negative publicity Virginia Tech’s way. On Tuesday, Robert T. Sumichrast, dean of the Pamplin College of Business, released a letter stating that an invitation had never actually been extended. After Riley produced evidence on Twitter that he had indeed been invited to speak at their fall lecture, the university caved.
Tim Sands, the president of Virginia Tech, released the following statement Thursday:
As the president of Virginia Tech, I want to share with you our commitment to free speech and civil discourse. We continue to welcome speakers to campus with diverse and controversial opinions that help us test our assumptions and broaden our perspectives. We owe this to our students who will be living and working in an increasingly complex world.
As you may have heard, a faculty committee charged with making a recommendation for a Fall 2016 speaker made a selection from a pool of potential speakers and that invitation was accepted. We learned subsequently that a faculty member, without the knowledge of the committee or the authority to do so, had extended an invitation to speak in that same slot to Jason Riley. We have since apologized to Jason Riley for this error in judgment, and Dean Sumichrast has invited him to speak at Virginia Tech. We regret the confusion and assure our friends, parents, students, alumni and partners that we will take the actions necessary to ensure that such miscommunication does not occur in the future.
It’s amazing what a little sunlight can do to clear minds.