The University of Michigan has rescinded an invitation to Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker, potentially due to her criticism of Israel.
Walker — best known for her 1982 novel “The Colour Purple” — had been invited to speak at the 50th anniversary of the university’s Center for the Education of Women. It is unclear why exactly the author’s invitation was rescinded, according to AnnArbor.com.
An email posted on Walker’s blog from a speaking agent claims that the author’s outspoken criticism of Israel played a role in her offer being rescinded:
I’m saddened to write this because I’m a proponent of free speech and have been brought up to allow everyone to have their say. But I also realise that there are other considerations that institutions are faced with. This afternoon I was contacted by the University of Michigan instructing me to withdraw their invitation due to the removal of funding from the donors, because of their interpretation of Ms. Walker’s comments regarding Israel. They are not willing to fund this program and the university/Women’s center do not have the resources to finance this on their own.
The email appeared under the title “In Case You’ve Ever Wondered How It Is Done: Censorship by Purse String.” However, a statement from the director of UMich’s Center for the Education of Women said that finances played no part in their decision:
I want to apologise for how we handled our invitation to author Alice Walker to speak at the Center for the Education of Women.
Upon further research, I decided to withdraw our invitation because I did not think Ms. Walker would be the optimum choice for the celebratory nature of our 50th anniversary event.
Donors had no bearing on this decision. Our 50th anniversary funding is completely assured. All donations, for this and other events, are accepted with no provisos or prohibitions regarding free speech.
Inside Higher Ed describes Walker as a “political activist” and notes that she supports a boycott of Israel. The author refused to allow an Israeli edition of “The Colour Purple” to be published, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
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