Ann Coulter’s upcoming visit to NMU has sparked many different reactions from the positive to the very negative; the latter reaction sparked the idea for Tolerance Week.
A group of students brought their concerns over the conservative idealogue’s April 14 speech to the Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Committee, where the idea for the week was formed.
A series of events have been planned for Tolerance Week. The events will be put on by a number of different student groups and faculty. The week starts Saturday, April 12 in the Cadillac Room of the University Center.
Jaime Engvall, a junior Spanish and international studies major, is in charge of “Don’t Take it Personally,” an event where students can send in stories of discrimination at Northern that will be re-enacted by other students.
The readings will take place Wednesday, April 16, at 7 p.m. in Whitman Commons.
Engvall said while Tolerance Week was inspired by Coulter’s visit, the purpose of the events is not just to protest her speech.
“It’s a great opportunity to talk about something that’s important,” she said. “I’ve seen active discrimination on campus, and everyone can learn more about tolerance and what’s going on in the area.”
Nancy Kenok, a sophomore international studies major, is also working on “Don’t Take it Personally,” and said she is glad Coulter is coming to NMU.
“I think she has the right to come here and talk; the First Amendment clearly states free speech,” she said. “I’ve actually been wanting something like this to happen because I’ve witnessed discrimination on campus even before Ann Coulter. Her coming here has been a good opportunity to spark this whole thing.”
Paul Lehmberg, an English professor and Buddhist priest, will speak at the Truth Rally, another event being put on for Tolerance Week. The rally will take place 5:30-7 p.m Monday, April 14, near the Vandament Arena.?
Lehmberg said that, as a Buddhist priest, he believes in commonality and the idea of everyone being tied together. He said that, in speaking at the Truth Rally, he wishes to celebrate that idea.
“Many of us are in some way a minority; we all have things in common,” he said. “[But] we all have aspects of our lives that are really uncommon and [shouldn’t] be singled out in those matters that we don’t have in common with other people.”
Lehmberg said he believes this event is a more positive way to get the message out about tolerance than Coulter’s speech.
“I want to be a different voice than the voice that I think Ann Coulter is going to present,” he said. “She seems to be a provocateur; maybe we’re going to provoke in a different way.”
Kyle Bonini, president of the College Republicans, said this kind of reaction is exactly what he wanted.
“We wanted people to talk about it and become involved and more active,” he said. “This event goes beyond the people who are attending the event; the people who are protesting and opposed to it are part of it.”
Bonini said the idea of bringing Coulter to campus was to have a speaker who understood people and allowed them to experience a conservative view.
“Ann Coulter’s opinions are diverse,” he said. “Freedom of speech belongs to everybody, not to just a select few. We shouldn’t just bring in speakers who a few people are comfortable with. We are supposed to show people different sides of things.”
Judy Puncochar, chair of the Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Committee, said students’ involvement in educating the campus on tolerance is encouraging.
“It’s really quite exciting to see the interest in doing very positive, proactive events planned around cultural diversity,” Puncochar said.
Students took the issue of Coulter coming here and turned it into a positive ongoing movement to bring about tolerance, she said.
“To see diversity as a value and certainly respect is key here,” she said. “The level of pro-tolerance and pro-diversity and doing something positive is wonderful.”