Home / Fall 2014 / Letter to the Editor: President McKinney, Defender of Dissent and Free Speech?

Letter to the Editor: President McKinney, Defender of Dissent and Free Speech?

President McKinney, Defender of Dissent and Free Speech?

Dr. McKinney’s recent letter to the VSU faculty claiming he is an ardent defender of free speech and dissent is simply absurd given his recent actions against the Mary Turner Project (MTP) and his refusal to address serious questions about the Ben Carson event.

On July 28, Dr. McKinney personally ordered the deactivation of my VSU email account because I, on behalf of the MTP and Lowndes SCLC, exercised my right to free speech and academic freedom when I challenged the state of Georgia to stop funding racist Confederate activities. Moreover, Dr. McKinney’s action was motivated by the single complaint of a VSU graduate who thinks Black people are “savages” and genetically “different” from whites. Today Dr. McKinney attempts to justify his decision by referencing various VSU “policies” that he and his staff cannot produce. After weeks of requesting to see those policies, the MTP has concluded they don’t exist.

Dr. McKinney’s recent letter championing himself as a defender of free speech and dissent, because he once defended a provocative artwork, is in itself an attempt to silence and dismiss legitimate questions that have been repeatedly raised about the Carson event. To date Dr. McKinney has refused to address these concerns. They include the following.

1) Given that Dr. Carson is not academically credentialed to speak about American history, because he holds no degree in history, political science, business and/or economics, why is the College of Business and VSU paying him $43,000 to discuss a topic he’s not qualified to speak about? He is a retired neurosurgeon. Wouldn’t he be better suited to discuss medicine or neurology in the College of Nursing?

2) Given that Dr. Carson regularly expresses his religiously based negative beliefs about the G/L/B/T/Q community, don’t his views violate VSU’s own “commitment” to not discriminate or encourage discrimination at VSU on the basis sexual orientation, as outlined in VSU’s mission statement, VSU’s non-discrimination policy, and in VSU’s “Safe Space Training” for staff/faculty?

3) Given that VSU knows that Dr. Carson is a likely Republican 2016 Presidential candidate, with an active and well-funded Political Action Committee, and given countless GOP leaders have been personally invited to “network” with him, why was the MTP targeted for its “political” activity?

4) As many have requested, why won’t Dr. McKinney simply commit to bring another nationally known and comparably compensated speaker, in addition to Dr. Carson, who might offer a scholarly informed, additional political perspective? To date, Dr. McKinney has refused to do that.

In all, Dr. McKinney’s actions against the MTP and his dismissal of legitimate questions about the Carson event demonstrate he is no champion of free speech or dissent. Defending free speech and dissent comes with risks and at a price for those who do it. Thus far in his role as president, and as someone makes $340,000 annually, it is a risk and price Dr. McKinney has been unwilling to pay.

Mark Patrick George PhD (VSU 89)


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  1. I can’t decide whether it is amusing or saddening that liberals get all upset over someone like Dr. Carson coming to campus. They always attempt to shout down any opposing views. This same level of uproar does not come from conservatives when a liberal speaker is on campus.

    Why not just allow the free exchange of ideas and allow people the be “pro choice” the vies they choose to accept.

    Of course, all of us little “l” libertarians will just play quietly in the corner while the two big bullies slug it out.

    And for the record, while I respect portions of what Dr. Carson has to say, I also have issue with some of his views. While I likely wouldn’t vote for him because of the later, I am still interested in what he has to say just as I would be of any prominent liberal speaker.

    J. Lee Weems
    VSU Class of 1998

  2. faculty senate needs to vote no confidence for bill mckinney. it’s a long time coming. mckinney is a check cutting president — all he does is spend money. lots of money. What happened to Dr George is an affront to free speech AND academic freedom. (even if only the spirit of the rules). I guess the mckinney mantra is free speech only when i say so. kind of like zacarri and Mr Hayden Barnes. i guess zaccari was also a check cutting president except he is cutting a fat check to hayden barnes from his personal checking account!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. At first I want to say thank you for sharing with us. I think this post will be effective for all.

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