June 20, 2011

In News

Dear Stephen Marsh

I wonder if I might comment on your recent formal invitation to Dr Norman Finkelstein to speak at your YPU event on 20 September 2011.
In the email correspondence with Dr Finkelstein that you initiated as the Vice President, Guest Affairs, of the Yale Political Union, you formally invited him to speak on Tuesday 20 September.
At no time in the correspondence did Dr Finkelstein decline that invitation or that date. He merely needed to check that he could be in Richmond, In for 1pm on Wednesday 21 September to make a previously agreed speaking arrangement.
You did indeed suggest to him Monday 19th, which he was happy to accept immediately, and even a date in October 2011.
However, please take careful note: Dr Finkelstein did not at any time either decline the invitation for September 20th or even suggest it would be impossible for him to make.
So your email to him of Wednesday 15 June, barely three working days after his initial reply and acceptance of your invitation, is patently incorrect:
“On Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 10:50 PM, Stephen T. Marsh <> wrote:
Oh, you could have done the 20th? I’m sorry, I was working under the assumption that it
wouldn’t work for you, and we booked another guest for that week.”

Not only the above, but your suggestion of 19 September and October seemed all of a sudden to have become ‘impractical’ or subject to some kind of seriously flawed and unprofessional administrative ‘mess up’ on your part.
I am sure you are aware of the history of both successful and unsuccessful attempts to neuter the voice of Dr Finkelstein (and others like him) by those who do not wish to see all views on Palestine aired.
Looking at your correspondence with Dr Finkelstein it not only appears to show serious malpractice on your part – booking another speaker within the space of two working days for a space to which you had an outstanding formal invitation to Dr Finkelstein – but the issues around your withdrawn invites for 19 September and October, add to the suspicion that you have been lent on to block Dr Finkelstein from speaking at your organisation at all.
You have the simple option of restoring your reputation and your organisation’s respect for freedom of expression and ethical behaviour by identifying immediately the ‘replacement speaker’ that you booked, contact them and explain the serious ethical error made in inviting them, and replacing Dr Finkelstein as the speaker for 20 September 2011. That wrongly invited replacement speaker will, I am absolutely convinced, understand the situation and agree.
If you do not do this, then you leave both yourself and your organisation open to significant criticism and a lack of respect among future potential speakers.
Indeed, it will be come widespread knowledge that neither you nor your organisation can be trusted in its dealing with Guest Speakers and will no doubt reduce the number and calibre of speakers who will in future be prepared to accept any invitation.
I should be grateful to hear your comments.
Yours sincerely
Steve Stanford
BA (hons) London School of Economics & Political Science
CC: Members of the YPU Executive Board
Should you, or your colleagues, require sight of the full correspondence between yourself and Dr Finkelstein then I will be happy to provide that.