Newman University canceled a planned talk by Kansas Supreme Court Justice Carol Beier after people who oppose abortion launched an “unsettling” social media campaign opposing her visit, the university’s provost said.
Beier had been invited by the campus student history club on Aug. 22 to answer questions Friday as part of the school’s Constitution Day program. She was scheduled to discuss topics such as how to get into law school, what it is like to be a judge and what role judges play in the judicial system, said Clark Schafer, a Newman spokesman.
But opposition to her visit from people outside the campus grew so ominous in tone that Newman vice president and provost Kimberly Long said she worried about the safety of Beier and of students attending her talk.
Newman, near Kellogg and Edwards, is a Catholic university.
“There were no specific threats of violence, but … I found some of the things being said were quite unsettling,” Long said. “I decided it was in the best interests of good operations of the university to cancel the event.”
Long declined to reveal the content of the messages sent to her.
“We worried about safety of students, and about perhaps having a guest on campus not be treated right,” Long said.
“I hope that our civic discourse here would be respectful to all persons in the future. I felt the behaviors in some of the messages to me were not respectful.”
Calls to a spokeswoman at the Kansas Supreme Court were not immediately returned.
Diana Stanley, a Newman student and president of the student history club, said in an e-mail to The Eagle that members of the club invited Beier to talk about the history of the Kansas Constitution and the general duties of judges.
“We were very excited when Justice Beier agreed because she has over thirty years of experience in the legal field and is a Wichita native,” Stanley wrote.
Opponents to Beier’s visit “made very public statements that implied our club had invited Carol Beier, a member of the highest court in Kansas, to speak about abortion … at a Constitution Day event.”
“As a student of history, I think that civil discourse is one of the bulwarks of a free society. I find disappointing that in our current political climate, even a lecture on the Kansas Constitution is considered controversial.”
Long said the messages that seemed unsettling came from people not affiliated with Newman students or faculty. But at least one former Newman student, in a posting on his Facebook page, opposed Beier’s visit and called on people to contact Long’s office.
“Absolutely disgusted that my alma mater, Newman University, is hosting pro-abortion Kansas Supreme Court Justice Carol Beier to speak this Friday on campus for Constitution Day,” he wrote.