After concluding his final debate with the former president of Mexico at Lafayette, Nigel Farage got to work recording a podcast on the debate series. Abdul Manan ’18, co-founder of the Mill Series, said that Farage approached him after the reception following the debate to speak on his podcast about the Mill Series and free speech on campus. Manan’s fellow co-founder and government and law professor Brandon Van Dyck also spoke on the recording.
Farage discussed his surprise at the faculty being the ones protesting his arrival at Lafayette. Professors, including Elaine Reynolds and Brett Hendrickson, were protesting at Farage’s arrival, holding signs. Farage took pictures of them and posted them on his Twitter.
“I was hustled in through the back door because there were protesters at the front door. I’m shocked to find out that these are actually professors that lecture at this university,” he said during his podcast entitled “Debating the President of Mexico.”
President Alison Byerly said that the protests did not disrupt the event or Farage’s entrance, but that she had not listened to Farage’s podcast yet as of Tuesday. It was released on Monday, April 9.
“[It is] pretty standard to bring speakers in the back, specifically…so that they’re not impeded in coming in the front, largely because we had lines of people in the front having their tickets checked and having their bags checked and everything else,” she said. “I would say that when having major speakers we customarily do bring them in the back door. That decision was made weeks in advance and not in response to anything that was happening on the scene.”
“I think holding placards outside the lecture, and in no way interfering with the lecture, is a perfectly appropriate way to make your views known,” she said. “I certainly wouldn’t agree with any characterization of the protests as having in any way interfered with the event or being in any way disruptive of the event.”
Manan said that he agreed to appear on the show “as a courtesy,” and that it felt “informal.” Farage posts almost daily on his show, “Farage Against the Machine.” Manan said on the show that it was easier to get students to come to the debate than faculty.
“In retrospect…I didn’t know in what context it would be used. I thought it was just like a blog or something that he had,” Manan said. “I didn’t know he would be trying to make an argument out of it.”
Right before the segment featuring Van Dyck and Manan, Farage spoke with a representative of the organization Turning Point USA, Candace Owens. The group runs the project Professor Watchlist, whose website says that its mission is “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” It publicly lists specific professors accused of the aforementioned offenses in its “directory” online.
Owens said in the podcast that the government is “too involved” in the projects and the black community, leading to higher single motherhood rates and high college dropout rates among black people. She said her job his “to grow that arm of Turning Point, hyper-focused in the black community.”
“[Black people] are never given any different ideas. They spend their entire lives enslaved in the public school system, and then it’s like ‘Go back to the projects [from] which you came’…I say all the time, if you point me to a black person, I can show you that they’re a conservative, they just don’t know it,” Owens said. “We’re trying to make them know it, to help them understand where their lives are, what’s happened, what went wrong and that the solution to that is less government involvement, and a return to self-confidence in our communities.” She said she wants to get Turning Point involved in high schools in order to expose more students to conservative viewpoints.
Following this statement from Owens, Farage said that “the one figure I’ve seen estimates that about 6% of high school teachers and university professors…are conservative, and about 94% are on the other side [and are liberal].” He did not state what the source of this statistic was. He asked Owen if she “hold[s] out hope that” the education system can be reformed and give a balanced view. Owens responded that she was hopeful.
Manan disagreed with Farage’s assessment of academia.
“There’s an entire argument he’s trying to make, and I personally think he’s overstating it, [that there is] this cabal of leftists,” he added. “[I think] it is a subset within the professorial elite, and not any individual professor. But the way Farage has presented it [that] there’s this epidemic happening and all universities are becoming leftist, [and] frankly I think it’s nonsense.”
“I disagree with the arc of the podcast is, and it’s partly my fault [that I didn’t understand the context of the podcast]. I should’ve thought about how it was going to be used,” he said.
“I don’t think [Van Dyck] should have [said] names [during the podcast],” Manan said.
Van Dyck named five professors during his portion: Elaine Reynolds of biology, Brett Hendrickson of religious studies, Joshua Sanborn of history, Robert Blunt of religious studies and Ben Cohen of engineering. He used these professors as examples to say that “it’s not just one professor—the symptoms expressed on the placards are mainstream among humanities and social science professors,” the placards being the signs held by protesters against Farage, which included statements such as “Bigotry is not up for debate,” and “No to Nigel.”
Van Dyck wrote in an email that he regrets naming specific professors.
“If I could redo the interview, I would not name the professors, but my decision to do so was not premeditated,” he wrote. “I had no foreknowledge of Farage’s questions, answered them extemporaneously and honestly, and tried, as I generally do, to be maximally specific and precise for the benefit of those conversing and listening. My intention was not to out the professors, but I realized, almost immediately, that naming them had been gratuitous and ill-considered.”
As for the podcast’s larger narrative, Van Dyck wrote in an email that he hadn’t listened to it as of Wednesday night, but that “it would be good if college faculties were more politically diverse, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. There would be fewer unchallenged orthodoxies in scholarship and teaching, and students would gain intellectually and personally.”
He noted that in the cases of Reynolds, Hendrickson, Sanborn and Cohen, articles in The Lafayette had already linked their names to protesting Farage in the weeks prior to the event, in the case of the two former, and organizing a counter event, in the case of the two latter.
Hendrickson wrote in an email that he has no problem with being named as he put himself out there when he began protesting. Reynolds declined to comment. Sanborn did not respond for comment other than to say that no one had yet reached out to him about it. Blunt declined to comment. Cohen wrote in an email that he had heard about the podcast “through the grapevine,” but that he hadn’t listened.
“Most of the people I know on campus (from all corners, from all perspectives) are more concerned with teaching, research and pursuing the mission of the College,” Cohen wrote.