Breaking conservative ties

For nearly two years, The University News has continually called for a greater level of diversity among the Student Government Association’s Great Issues Committee.

The problem with the committee, however, may not be limited to their apparent political leanings toward speakers who reflect conservative views. The problem may lie in the committee’s close relationship with the conservative organization Young America’s Foundation. Without the support of YAF, the Nov. 3 appearance of National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston, as well as the appearance of several past speakers, may not have been possible.

Past speakers brought to SLU by the Great Issues Committee include: Margaret Thatcher, former British prime minister; William F. Buckley, National Review founder and prolific conservative writer; Ralph Reed, former director of Christian Coalition; Maria Molina, a former CIA arms smuggler; Oliver North, participant in the Iran-Contra Affair; and now Heston. Efforts to bring former Vice President Dan Quayle were thwarted only by his announcement of presidential candidacy.

In its defense, the Great Issues Committee has brought, or aided in bringing, Carl Bernstein and Nikki Giovanni to Saint Louis University. However, the list remains particularly heavy with a disproportionate number of conservatives.

The purpose of the committee is to bring well-known or respected persons, regardless of their political leanings, to campus to speak on a variety of issues. The committee is funded by SGA, money which ultimately comes from the $19-per-semester student activity fee. Members of the committee are appointed by the student senate every fall to an indefinite term.

The University News realizes that it may not be appropriate to dispose of the current list of committee members, especially since the year is relatively young and there are plenty of chances for the committee to reverse past trends. However, what the committee can trash is its alignment with YAF.

The Great Issues Committee’s relationship with YAF, in itself, is a blessing and a curse. With the deeps pockets of YAF, speakers such as Buckley and Heston become a reality. However, they place the Great Issues Committee in a narrow rut. It is obvious that without the co-sponsorship and support of YAF, speakers such as Buckley and Heston may not be possible on the committee’s budget.

The University News would love to see a list of next semester’s speakers with an equal number of conservative and liberal views. Dumping YAF and booking greatly diversified, yet perhaps lesser-known, speakers may be the best option.