Paul L. Caron

Monday, July 10, 2023

Donor Cancels $400,000 Annual Gift Due To Arizona State's Response To Speaker Series Event With Four Conservatives

Following up on my previous post, I Paid For Free Speech At Arizona State With My Job (Wall Street Journal Op-Ed (June 24, 2023)):  Arizona State Press, Starting This Week, The T.W. Lewis Center Is No More:

Arizona State University LogoT.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development at Barrett, the Honors College was dissolved on June 30. The creator and main benefactor of the center is terminating funding, resulting in the center's closure.

The primary funder, Tom Lewis, who pledged an annual donation of $400,000 following a first-year donation of  $800,000 in 2017, will no longer be financially supporting the center. 

The center provided students enrolled in Barrett with innovative courses, workshops, and an engaging speaker series focused on self-awareness, personal values and character development.

Lewis, the founder, owner, and CEO of a real estate investment company, and his wife formed the T.W. Lewis Foundation in the year 2000. According to their website, the purpose of the T.W. Lewis Foundation is to "help children and families in need, impact youth through Christian education, support civic-minded causes in our community, strengthen America, and build God's kingdom." ...

Lewis told the Arizona Republic on June 20 that he pulled the funding because of the University's handling of the “Health, Wealth and Happiness event.” An event the center hosted that featured conservative activist Charlie Kirk, and conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager.  ...

The center's executive director, Ann Atkinson, ... claims she was fired from the University due to moderating and supporting the event that included controversial speakers, Dennis Prager and Charlie Kirk, in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal.  The claim was later denied by the University in an additional opinion in the Journal

T.W. Lewis Statement Regarding the Cancellation of Gift to the ASU-Barrett Center for Personal Development:

As part of its speaker series, the Lewis Center scheduled a major event on February 8, 2023, at Gammage Auditorium titled “Health, Wealth & Happiness,” featuring Dennis Prager, Charlie Kirk, Robert Kiyosaki, and Dr. Radha Gopalan. Because these were mostly conservative speakers, we expected some opposition, but I was shocked and disappointed by the alarming and outright hostility demonstrated by the Barrett faculty and administration toward these speakers. Instead of sponsoring this event with a spirit of cooperation and respect for free speech, Barrett faculty and staff exposed the radical ideology that now apparently dominates the college.

After seeing this level of left-wing hostility and activism, I no longer had any confidence in Barrett to adhere to the terms of our gift, and made the decision to terminate our agreement, effective June 30, 2023. I regret that this decision was necessary, and hope that Barrett and ASU will take strong action to ensure that free speech will always be protected and that all voices can be heard.

Owen Anderson (Arizona State), Barrett Honors College: Free Speech or Libel?:

The honors professors who published a letter against Mr. Lewis called him many insulting names. And they called Dennis Prager a white nationalist bigot. They defended themselves by saying this was merely their right to free speech. And yet, free speech does not permit libel and slander. Would they be willing to apologize for their insults and instead issue an argument about why Dennis Prager is wrong in saying God made man male and female and marriage is between one man and one woman? I am still open to holding a public debate about this topic with any of them.

What kind of example does this set for their students? Remember, these are honors professors teaching the honors students of ASU. And when they disagree with someone, they resort to all manner of insults rather than discussion and dialogue. What does this tell students about how to behave? Is this the example you, as a parent or potential student, want to see from your professors?

These honors professors appealed to Robert George and Cornel West as examples of how to disagree with civility. But what you won’t find George and West doing is calling each other names the way these honors professors did. Why didn’t they follow the good example of George and West? It is a case of “do as I say, not as I do.”

Arizona Independent News Network, ASU Benefactor T.W. Lewis Explains Decision To Pull Funding: “Left-Wing Hostility And Activism”

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