“Communism” isn’t usually associated with Samford University. In fact, the data-crunching company Niche recently ranked it as the 18th most conservative college in America, and number one in our state.
So you can imagine my surprise after seeing several headlines accusing Samford of going red.
“Samford University becomes a safe space for communists,” read a Nov. 29 article in the Washington Examiner. A day later the Daily Caller declared “College blocks student group for being too anti-communist.” Closer to home the conservative website Yellowhammer carried a post titled “Samford University official says anti-communist statement is ‘inflammatory.'”
Well, sort of.
After making sure they weren’t confusing Samford with Stanford – which actually does have safe spaces – I checked the original sources and here’s what I learned:
A group of Samford students, led by senior Karalee Geis, recently began the process of establishing a chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), the conservative group founded by William F. Buckley during the early years of the Cold War. Its founding document, known as the Sharon Statement because it was written at Buckley’s home in Sharon, Connecticut in 1961, succinctly explains the group’s beliefs about liberty.
The rather noncontroversial statement ends with a shot at the appeasers of the day by declaring, “… the forces of international communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to these liberties,” and that “the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistence with, this menace.”
Thankfully one of our future presidents agreed. “Here’s my strategy for the Cold War,” President Ronald Reagan said years later. “We win. They lose.”
We did. And they did … at least for now.
So back to Karalee Geis and her friends. They met with a faculty senate committee in early November to gain its approval for their YAF chapter, but the process stalled after someone on the committee took issue with the Sharon Statement, particularly the “victory over, rather than coexistence with” part.
Some said the committee decided that the section needed to be changed before approval would be granted. Others said the committee simply asked questions to more clearly understand the statement’s intent.
Whatever was said, the committee didn’t approve the chapter’s application during that meeting, so a few days later Geis asked for an official response stating why.
“We are looking for the YAF student group to amend or justify the inflammatory language listed in their Purpose,” responded a Samford official. “This is the direct statement from the Sharon Statement that, though likely appropriate in 1960, does not hold the same in 2016. We understand that your current group and officers desire not to be exclusive by initial design, however, these statements are exactly that.”
Geis provided Samford’s response to the YAF’s national office who then wrote about it on their website. Within a few days the story had gone viral within the conservative blogosphere.
After a few he-said she-said statements were exchanged between Samford and the Young Americans for Freedom’s national office, it appears things are moving toward a reasonable conclusion. I’ve heard that the would-be YAF chapter will not be required to change the Sharon Statement and the school will decide on its application next semester.
So was this blown out of proportion? Yes … and no.
Samford isn’t a hotbed of communism. That’s ridiculous.
But it’s clearly not immune from the same politically correct nonsense that’s infected the rest of academia. Otherwise the Sharon Statement’s language wouldn’t have raised a single eyebrow on the faculty committee and the student group would have been approved without much fuss.
Moreover, there’s nothing “inflammatory” about its language. Communism caused the death of tens of millions in the last century and fueled the persecution of hundreds of millions more. There’s no coexisting with that. It’s pure evil.
The line about the statement being appropriate for 1960 but not today ignores the fact that forced collectivism – in economics and political and religious beliefs – has plagued humanity since ancient Greece. The “menace” Buckley referenced predates Karl Marx and will forever threaten our liberty. That’s precisely why groups like the Young Americans for Freedom are so badly needed on our college campuses.
Let’s hope that Samford will remember that fact when it reconsiders the group’s application next semester.