Op/ed: KPU Speakers Should Reflect American University Values

We are writing on behalf of students who took action at the Kennedy Political Union’s Dick Cheney event and others on campus who are disgusted and outraged that KPU used student money to bring this individual to AU. KPU provides a valuable service to students by showcasing speakers from across the political spectrum. We recognize the importance of respecting a range of political viewpoints and highlighting voices that might not represent the political majority at AU. What we cannot accept is providing a platform to those whose political careers are built on positions and policies that undermine the mission and values of this University.

AU’s strong commitment to the promotion of human rights is reflected in the WCL Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, the Brady Tyson award, which recognizes excellence in work related to human rights, and the 135 faculty members who conduct research and teach classes on the topic. Additionally, AU’s Board of Trustees has committed to screening investments in Burma and Sudan from the endowment due to human rights abuses in those countries. Dick Cheney, on the other hand, has abused executive power to commit human rights violations and remains a vocal advocate for the use of torture in American foreign policy. At the KPU event, when asked how he felt about students calling him a war criminal, Cheney responded “not guilty,” despite his indictment for war crimes by international courts. Bringing unrepentant war criminals to our campus, on our dime, should not be tolerated.

In advocating for the passage of the “Halliburton Loophole”, Cheney is responsible for the exemption of “fracking” from both the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. According to the Associated Press, states like Pennsylvania and Texas receive hundreds of complaints per year about well water contamination from fracking and in the last five years, more than 100 cases of pollution have been confirmed. Cheney’s history on environmental issues is inappropriate at a university dedicated to sustainability, as evidenced by the President’s Climate Challenge, the carbon neutrality plan and LEED-gold certifications for all new buildings.

Finally, AU’s Statement of Common Purpose includes “an appreciation of diverse cultures and viewpoints.” Representing the full political spectrum is integral to democracy, and we respect KPU’s commitment to doing so. But between fear-mongering, corruption and deceit of the American people, Dick Cheney stands in firm opposition to these democratic values. Moreover, of all the speakers KPU has brought in the past year, only one has been a racial minority and just two have been women. Even with future events planned for the rest of the school year, the vast majority of speakers KPU selects—and then pays for with money from our student activity fees—will be white men. Bringing Dick Cheney does not reflect a true commitment to diversity and relevance amongst KPU speakers.

Dick Cheney’s crimes are a slap in the face to the most fundamental values of this university, and should not be implicitly endorsed with the use of student funds. We reject Dick Cheney’s status as an honored guest, and hope the AU community will continue to disassemble the injustices that occurred by his hand.

Deirdre Shelly is a junior in the School of International Service.
Kate Brunette is a senior in the School of International Service
Audrey Irvine-Broque is a sophomore in the School of International Service.

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