Or did the students planning the duo's gig just have a problem getting their act together?
The answer depends on who you ask.
Grad student Toussaint Losier says his suspicions were raised April 20, when the university “effectively canceled” a dialogue between Princeton University professor and public radio regular West and Revolutionary Communist Party USA spokesman Dix that had been planned for May 7 at the International House.
But a university spokesperson says the issues were "logistics," including a proposed venue too small for the likely audience, a short time frame in which to get it all together, and finances. And law student Lauren Fladger, who was on the event planning committee agrees: "The planning committee was not in a position to move forward in terms of financial or logistical matters. It had nothing to do with Cornel West, who's been on the campus before, or Carl Dix," Fladger says.
Nevertheless, a mini-flap ensued.
On April 23, Losier posted an online petition reminding U. of C. vice president and dean of students Kim Goff-Crews that the university recently reiterated its commitment to welcoming "campus speakers with viewpoints across the intellectual and political spectrum."
"The University of Chicago claims to honor the value of freedom of expression," the petition said. "Yet, this university’s commitment to this value was undermined when when a coalition of RSOs abruptly discovered that university officials had withdrawn university sponsorship of a speaking event with Cornel West, one of the nation's leading public intellectuals, and Carl Dix, a revolutionary communist and initiator of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network."
The petition quickly attracted more than one hundred signatures (there were 471 today), and a few days later, West and Dix wrote an open letter accusing the administration of “raising new obstacles at the last minute.”
Losier says the students also got a commitment from the speakers to discount their fee to a total of $13,000 (including expenses).
After which, it somehow all worked out: this week student organizers and university officials met again, the venue was changed to the more spacious Mandel Hall, and Chicago will get its chance to hear and participate in the West/Dix roadshow, "In the Age of Obama . . . What Future for Our Youth." You can check out how it went at Berkley last fall, or be there in the flesh on May 7 at 7 PM, Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St. It’s free and open to the public.