It happened frequently in 2016- a college club or the school administration invites a speaker but due to pressures from student groups or day-of protests, the event is cancelled and the speaker forced to find alternative venues or issue an apology to disappointed audience members.
FIRE recently reported that 2016 featured a record number of disinvitations to speakers from colleges and universities, 46 in total. The previous record of 34 was set in 2013. Such a figure bolsters the case that free speech is being increasingly restricted on college campuses. Yet, a closer inspection reveals that 14 of the 46 disinvitation attempts in 2016 focused on a single target, Milo Yiannopoulos. This suggests that 2016’s record number of disinvitation attempts may not be indicative of an increased level of assault on free speech on college campuses, because the record-setting number may have been driven by one outlier.
Fortunately, FIRE maintains a database documenting speaker disinvitation attempts on college campuses starting in the year 2000, allowing for a deeper investigation into campus disinvitation attempts.
This is the first of a two-part series on FIRE’s disinvitation data. This post focuses on basic exploratory analyses. Part two focuses on the political motivations behind the disinvitation attempts.