University students are petitioning and organizing protests against General Peter Pace’s scheduled keynote address at the Graduate School of Business’ (GSB) 55th annual Management Conference in May.
Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stirred controversy last month with his comments about the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, telling the Chicago Tribune on March 12: “I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts. I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is okay to be immoral in any way.”
History graduate student Timothy Stewart-Winter, the creator of “The Campaign to Uninvite General Pace” website, said inviting Pace is comparable to bringing a speaker opposed to interracial marriage.
“I think it’s not compatible with our core values, and sends a problematic message to queers, especially those still in the closet,” Stewart-Winter said.
At the time of publication, the Campaign to Uninvite General Pace collected 956 signatures from students, staff, and alumni, including six GSB professors. The petition calls Pace “America’s most visible advocate of anti-gay public policy” and says the speech sends a message incompatible with longstanding nondiscrimination policies and “ongoing efforts to create a climate welcoming of diversity.”
GSB dean Ted Snyder said that though the GSB promotes a policy of inclusion, he believes the role of the University is to be a platform for promoting discussion.
“The dialogue that we are seeing, the petition, the protests, the meetings with student leaders, this is exactly what the Kalven Report had in mind,” Snyder said, referencing the 1967 report that limits the University from taking positions that could jeopardize its climate of free and balanced academic inquiry.
Snyder quoted a section of the Kalven Report which he said helped him through the decision-making process: “The neutrality of the University as an institution arises then not from a lack of courage nor out of indifference or insensitivity. It arises out of respect for free inquiry and the obligation to cherish a diversity of viewpoints.”
“We’re very pleased with the process and comforted by the outcomes we’re seeing unfolding,” Snyder said.
On Saturday, the Deans of the GSB released a statement explaining their decision not to rescind the invitation to Pace. In the statement they propose an additional conference about inclusion to be held fall quarter. Snyder said he is meeting with student leaders next week to begin planning.
Stewart-Winter said he is not satisfied with the proposed conference, and is hopeful that with enough pressure the GSB will change its mind.
He said the group’s multi-track plans include communicating with GSB alumni and talking to Harris Bank, a co-sponsor of the event.
If the speech does occur, local groups including the University of Chicago Queers & Associates, Chicago Area CodePINK, and the Gay Liberation Network are planning a protest in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
Pace is scheduled to speak Friday, May 18, on what a GSB press release described as “his leadership ‘biases’ and…the challenges and ideas that have informed his leadership style throughout his career.”