Lewis & Clark students, faculty push back against controversial speaker as protest continues

Article author: 
Eder Campuzano
Article publisher: 
The Oregonian
Article date: 
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Article category: 
Oregon Issues
Article Body: 

When student organizers invited Jessica Vaughan to speak at Lewis & Clark College's International Affairs Symposium, they knew there would be pushback.

The policy director for the right-wing Center for Immigration Studies, recently designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, repeatedly told the audience gathered inside the Agnes Flanagan Chapel that she's not against refugees seeking asylum in the U.S.

"Then how can you explain your Twitter feed?" a professor asked during the Q&A section of the panel discussion Vaughan shared with Galya Ruffer, founding director of The Center of Forced Migration Studies at Northwestern University.

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"I choose certain cases to share," Vaughan explained...

(She does, it should be noted, also share stories from outlets such as CBS News and The Daily Beast that may be seen as detrimental to the White House's arguments for its stance on immigration and refugee issues.)

The discussion was at times difficult to hear as a protest, organized by Portland's Resistance...20 demonstrators chanted, at times employing the siren feature of a bullhorn...

The protest was organized on Monday after history professor Elliott Young...

Catherine Kodat, dean of Lewis & Clark's College of Arts and Sciences, said student organizers began preparing for the possibility of a protest after the post began to spread...

On at least two occasions, a pair of doors near the stage shook as someone outside pounded on them. A shout of "Nazi scum" could be heard between the sound of boots on wood...

Vaughan's critics Tuesday evening contended that those "certain cases" paint immigrants and refugees in broad strokes, stoking racism against both groups.

"I don't think immigration has anything to do with crime. At all," she said.

The back-and-forth on crime among refugee and immigrant populations was a departure from the debate...

The discussion, moderated by associate professor Heather Smith-Cannoy, was supposed to center around the question of whether countries were obligated to offer refugees asylum within their borders or help them re-settle within their country of origin.

At the outset of the debate, Ruffer thanked the student organizers for their decision to not create a "safe space" but rather promote conversation.

Yet all but three questions from debate attendees were directed at Vaughan, criticizing her previously published works.

Smith-Cannoy may have drawn the loudest applause of the evening when she challenged Vaughan's previous assertions that the Obama Administration released 36,000 undocumented immigrants from detention in 2013 and that 72 individuals from countries listed in President Trump's original executive order had been linked to terrorist activity.

(Both claims had been debunked by The Washington Post and other fact-checking agencies.)

Vaughan pushed back, telling the crowd that her research was open-sourced.

And so it went, until professor Bob Mandel approached the stage to signal the end of the discussion....

Gregory McKelvey, leader of Portland's Resistance, was among those standing outside...

"The people here are intelligent people," McKelvey said. "It doesn't take much for them to argue effectively against people who use made-up facts to make their points."