Arizona State Univ. Fires Two Faculty Members for Organizing Event With Conservative Speakers

Arizona State University dismantled its “Lewis Center for Personal Development.” It fired two faculty members who helped organize it over a recent event hosting conservative speakers like Dennis Prager and Charlie Kirk.

Over 37 faculty members at the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University organized a petition against the event featuring “Rich Dad Poor Dad” author Robert Kiyosaki, best-selling author and PragerU founder Dennis Prager, and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk.

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Ann Atkinson, one of the fired faculty members, told all in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, detailing the systemic opposition to the event. While the petition condemned the event for “platforming and legitimating” the speakers’ views, even describing Prager and Kirk as “white nationalist provocateurs, it went further than that. Atkison claimed the professors spent “precious class time denouncing the program,” along with publicly complaining on Twitter that such an event was even allowed to occur.

Despite the event’s success, netting 1,500 in-person audience members and 24,000 online, Atkinson reported that the faculty “scare tactics” worked.


“Many students told me they were intimidated by professors into not attending. Some would attend only if we promised that cameras wouldn’t face the audience. Students worried that attending or expressing interest in the event would hurt them academically. Grades for ambiguous things like “class participation” give professors the ability to punish students for their politics. The success of professors’ fearmongering was reflected in the audience, where older attendees outnumbered the students.”

What’s more, Atkinson claims that, after the event, faculty members got it even worse.

“Lin Blake, the events operations manager at ASU Gammage Theater, was fired by ASU Gammage. Before her firing, Ms. Blake told me that she was “berated by ASU Gammage leadership for coordinating an event that did not align with the values of ASU Gammage.” And as of June 30, ASU will dismantle the Lewis Center and terminate my position as its executive director. Barrett Honors College leadership told me this is purely a business decision,  despite my raising more than $500,000 in the last year through the center.”

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The Lewis Center as. a whole was dismantled, and Atkinson herself was fired as well.

Even famed theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, who is publicly apolitical and certainly no right-winger, has spoken out against the practice.


“A sad reflection. Academic administrators at many universities pay lip service to free speech but ultimately care more about virtue signaling than intellectual integrity, or properly serving their students & community. It needs to change.”

At the close of the Journal article, Atkinson expressed tASU’she surface-level nature of ASU’s commitment to free speech is not unique and that such principles will likely prove to be similarly hollow when challenged.

“ASU claims to value freedom of expression. But in the end the faculty mob always wins against institutional protections for free speech. If a culture that promotes the free exchange of ideas isn’t adequately fostered at “green light” rated ASU, is any school really safe?”

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