Practice What You Preach: Why Azusa Pacific University Should Defend Ashley Blackwell
Catherine Helsley Rodriguez |
Much has been made about the recent coverage of 2012 CBLPI summer intern Ashley Blackwell and her fight to establish a Young Americans for Freedom chapter on her Azusa Pacific University campus. Many individuals have come to the school’s defense, insisting that APU is a good Christian school that seeks to promote a sense of community and embraces students of all kinds and with all beliefs.
Unfortunately, Ashley’s experience does not reflect such tolerance. While it may be true that APU considers itself a campus that “supports the opportunity for all students to engage in open political dialogue,” its administrators appeared to turn a largely blind eye to the bias and bullying Ashley and her fellow conservative students face there. Like scores of conservative college students across the country, this isn’t Ashley’s first run-in with campus leftists.
Ashley first came to the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute for help after a frustrating freshman year with her Resident Advisor. A Resident Advisor serves a key function in the life of a new college student, and this RA should have been a resource for Ashley—someone to provide advice and assistance in navigating campus and providing a positive living experience. Instead, Ashley was confronted time and time again by her college-sanctioned RA hell-bent on indoctrinating the young women in her hall with liberal feminist ideology. “Before this year is over,” the RA quite seriously told Ashley early on, “I will make you a liberal feminist democrat who believes in gay marriage and abortion.”
Ashley was subjected to constant questioning of her conservative principles and inappropriate taunting by liberal peers meant to intimidate and silence her. She was required to attend dorm hall events, put on by this RA and all pro-liberal in nature, that featured the likes of “No Makeup March,” a sophomoric attempt to convince the young ladies on the hall that they were bucking against the patriarchy by not wearing makeup. Seeing “All American” pancakes on the menu one morning, Ashley said out loud, “just like me!” Her RA turned to her and asked, “Ashley, what does it feel like to love America? Because I don’t.”
With the help of CBLPI President Michelle Easton, Ashley composed a letter to her Office of Residence Life detailing her experiences with the RA and asking for the campus’s help. Although she never received a response to it, she has since heard that policies for RA selection have been changed to require candidates to agree not to impose political agendas on students, which is certainly to the university’s credit.
After a frustrating freshman year, and with encouragement from the Luce Policy Institute, Ashley set out to bring a conservative speaker to campus. Ashley chose to bring author and commentator Kate Obenshain to speak on the failures of the feminist movement – a topic she felt offered a good counterpoint to the excessive pro-feminist perspective of her previous year.
Although they did permit her to host the event on APU’s campus, Ashley received virtually no support from campus faculty and administrators. Several weeks before the event, Ashley began putting up posters to advertise the lecture. Within 24 hours, most of her posters were either torn down or defaced with devil horns and Hitler mustaches drawn on Obenshain’s photos. Not a finger was lifted by the university to defend this young woman or to admonish those who would react so childishly to the invitation of a conservative speaker and her ideas.
The lecture drew an overflow crowd, some of whom sought only to distract the audience from Obenshain’s lecture with rude comments and inappropriate laughter. Those students continued to verbally harass Ashley in classroom and social settings in the weeks that followed.
Ashley’s experience at Azusa Pacific may well be unique. Yet as small as APU is, it’s hard to imagine that campus administrators were completely unaware this was going on.
Or Ashley’s experience may be a trend that, if left unchecked by campus administrators, will do significant damage to the Christian university’s reputation and its stated mission to provide an environment that supports the opportunity for all students to engage in open dialogue. Promoting a sense of community and Christ-centered education should not mean turning a blind eye to intolerant and intimidating behavior. Rather, it should offer a great opportunity to teach young men and women a truly valuable lesson: to be respectful of others and to treat them as they would like to be treated.