Justice Scalia to speak on the Hill, sparks controversy
Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 01:09
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will visit the university on Oct. 2 to speak on interpreting the constitution as part of the Richard E. Snyder President’s Lecture Series, the university announced last week.
The news has provoked a mixed reaction from students — some of whom object to the selection of Scalia as speaker due to his controversial statements and writings on marriage equality.
According to LGBT Community Representative John Kelly, the university’s choice to invite Scalia has sparked talk of protests among some students.
“From what I’ve heard and understood from friends, colleagues and peers who are part of the [LGBT] community, I would say there’s a sense of outrage and confusion at bringing Scalia here,” Kelly, a junior, said. “This is someone whose interpretation of the constitution discriminates against 10 percent of the student body.”
Kelly, who is also on the executive board of the Tufts Queer Straight Alliance, plans to draft a resolution for the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate expressing disagreement with Tufts’ choice to bring Scalia as speaker.
Scalia — currently the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court — was appointed to his Justice position by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. The former law professor drew criticism this summer after issuing his dissenting opinion in United States v. Windsor. The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in that case invalidated aspects of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Enacted in 1996, DOMA prohibited the extension of federal benefits to married same-sex couples.
University President Anthony Monaco told the Daily in an email that the lecture series, which has previously hosted speakers such as journalist Bob Woodward and historian Niall Ferguson, aims to bring speakers to campus who have challenged orthodox views.
“The purpose of the Snyder Lecture series is to invite expert speakers who have challenged mainstream thought, which Justice Scalia is sure to do,” he said. “The lecture is sure to engage the Tufts community in vigorous dialogue from multiple perspectives.”
The Richard E. Snyder President’s Lecture Series was established in 2004 with the goal of bringing speakers “provocative” views on contemporary issues to campus, according to the series’ webpage. Last year’s event brought American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Executive Director Anthony Romero to campus to speak on political correctness and freedom of expression.
President of Tufts Democrats Jacob Wessel said that he thinks students with opposing views will benefit from the opportunity to better understand Scalia’s stance.
“Oftentimes hearing and discussing with and debating [with] those of opposing views actually helps sharpen our understanding of moral, legal, political and sociological issues,” Wessel, a senior, said. “I think that people should go to Justice Scalia’s lecture with an open mind, and come out of it having engaged with someone who maybe they don’t agree with, which will help [them] sharpen [their] own argument.”
Bennett Gillogly, co-president of Tufts Republicans, said that he hopes Scalia’s talk will challenge the classically liberal ideology that he said dominates college campuses.
“We look forward to Justice Scalia’s interpretation of the constitution possibly challenging the beliefs of Tufts students,” Gillogly, a senior, said. “We think that his alternative viewpoints founded in an academic analysis of our nation’s documents will facilitate a constructive dialogue across campus.”
Kelly said that he would encourage students with an interest in the subject to attend the lecture, though he still has reservations about honoring Scalia.
“There is some merit to bringing a speaker of a different mindset and different political ideology from the majority of the students,” he said. “But at the same time you have to understand the real hurt that these high profile speakers’ opinions cause students — students who hope someday to marry someone who they love regardless of that person’s gender.”
Scalia’s speech on interpreting the Constitution will also be especially interesting to Tufts’ large population of students hoping to attend law school, according to Pre-Law Society at Tufts President Scott Blumenthal.
“It will be great for students interested in law to learn more about the inner workings of the legal system,” Scott, a senior, said. “I hope that students will respect his opinions, and hearing different perspectives.”
Regarding opposition Scalia may face on the Hill for his legal and political views, Blumenthal said that the Justice is likely no stranger to disagreement.
“He’s in the minority a lot,” he said. “He’s used to opposition.”