Conservative pundit William F. Buckley, Jr. — in the midst of a heated controversy about anti-Semitism and Dartmouth’s past — will speak at the College and participate in a panel discussion on Jan. 21.
Buckley will come to Dartmouth in part to defend statements he made in his Nov. 18 New York Times editorial, “God and Man at Dartmouth.” In the editorial, Buckley questioned whether it was neccessary for the College to move away from its Christian roots.The editorial was written in response to statements made by College President James Freedman during the Nov. 7 dedication of the Roth Center for Jewish Life at which Freedman discussed anti-Semitic bias in Dartmouth admissions policies during the 1940s and 50s.
In his dedication speech, Freedman quoted a remark made by former College President Ernest Hopkins in 1945. Hopkins said the College used a quota system to limit the number of Jews admitted and added that “Dartmouth is a Christian college founded for the Christianization of its students.”
Buckley wrote in his editorial that the Roth Center “surely is intended to Judaize campus Jews.” He wrote that although he supports the elimination of the quota system, he does not believe it should have led to what he sees as a secularization of the College.
“To erase the quota system shouldn’t require the abandonment of the ideal of Christianizing those students susceptible to Christian mores — surely a fraternal enterprise,” Buckley wrote. “Why can’t Judaism and Christianity go hand in hand at Dartmouth, with the conventional deferences to the majority?”
Buckley is slated to give an opening speech titled, “Anti-Semitism, Jesus and Dartmouth,” after which he will address questions posed to him by a panel of three students yet to be chosen — one Jewish, one Christian and one agnostic.
Dartmouth Hillel President David Levi ’00 said Hillel has decided not to join in sponsoring the event and is in the process of discussing whether or not to have a representative panel member.
“Maybe it would be helpful to have a student from Hillel to offer a counterpoint to Buckley, but maybe it wouldn’t,” Levi said.
Chris Parker, the advisor to The Navigators Christian Fellowship — the evangelical non-denominational group which is hosting Buckley’s visit — said he decided not to involve The Dartmouth Review in Buckley’s visit.
The Review, an off-campus conservative publication which gives special thanks to Buckley in its masthead each issue, has not been asked to participate in the event, and is not scheduled to participate in any Buckley-related events, according to Executive Editor Benjamin Wallace-Wells ’00.
Parker, who is organizing Buckley’s visit, said he decided not to involve the Review to prevent Buckley’s visit from becoming a political event. “I want him to speak on the nature of his own faith and on how he believes faith should inform modern education,” Parker said.
Voces Clamantium — a Council on Student Organizations group that explores the relation between faith and reason — will join the Navigators in hosting the event.
Buckley is a columnist, lecturer, host of Public Broadcasting Network’s Firing Line and author of 37 books including “In Search of Anti-Semitism” and “Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith.”