It’s been confirmed: members of the Oklahoma legislature are investigating the suspicious circumstances of Richard Dawkins’ lecture. After all, what possible excuse could UO have for inviting a known rabblerouser who doesn’t happen to believe in gods? Other than his reputation as a world-famous scientist, writer, and speaker, of course.
Sure enough, I just received confirmation today in a letter from the Open Records Office at the University of Oklahoma. The letter confirms that on the day of Dawkins’ speech, Oklahoma State Representative Rebecca Hamilton requested substantial information relating to the speech from Vice President for Governmental Relations Danny Hilliard. Representative Hamilton’s exhaustive request included demands for all e-mails and correspondence relating to the speech; a list of all money paid to Dawkins and the entities, public or private, responsible for this funding; and the total cost to the university, including, among other things, security fees, advertising, and even “faculty time spent promoting this event.”
Rick Farmer, the director of committee staff for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, also wrote the University on March 12, requesting confirmation that Dawkins had indeed waived all compensation for the speech.
It’s actually too bad that Dawkins waived his fee — he was well within his rights to ask for it, and the university had the right to invest in bringing interesting ideas to campus. The issue is not whether speakers should be paid, it’s whether these witch-hunters are overstepping their bounds. Don’t like an idea that’s being expressed at a university? Call out the hounds and make ‘em sweat.
In other surprising news, ERV seems to have a low opinion of the investigators.