To the Editors:

I was dismayed to read last week’s letter to the editor from Jeff D. Emerson ’70, wherein he criticized the views of Christopher Wedeman ’15.  To be clear, I don’t share Wedeman’s views, but I was disappointed that Emerson, a Bowdoin trustee, would resort to ad hominen attacks and straw man arguments in order to put down a current student. 

For example, Emerson insinuated that Wedeman is disdainful of the First Amendment because he questions the wisdom of giving a person a public forum on campus. However, the First Amendment protects citizens only from government restrictions on speech.  There is no constitutional right to be an invited speaker at a private college nor is there a constitutional guarantee that a choice of speaker must be free from student criticism. Accordingly, Wedeman is of no immediate threat to our constitutional rights.

Notwithstanding his incorrect interpretation of constitutional law, Emerson further contends that Wedeman’s dissenting views somehow disparage Bowdoin’s military veterans who died to protect our freedoms.  Emerson, neither you nor I know exactly what motivated each of these brave men and women, but I sincerely doubt any of them gave their lives with the hope that their deaths would be used as a cheap rhetorical ploy by a trustee bullying a student.

I hope Bowdoin continues to recruit speakers who will challenge the campus’ prevailing politics.  I also hope that students who oppose such speakers’ views will continue to voice their dissent.

But I most fervently hope that the trustees as a whole possess better reasoning skills and a greater depth of character than Emerson has displayed. 

Kevin R. Larivee ’06