MONTREAL — Plans to celebrate a Concordia University college's 40th anniversary are in disarray after the school decided to disinvite a Harvard professor because of his controversial views on feminism.
Last November, the Montreal university's Liberal Arts College asked Harvey Mansfield, a professor of government at Harvard, to speak during a gala scheduled for May. But following criticism from some alumni, the college quietly cancelled his visit and the entire gala in February.
The decision by the college's principal, Mark Russell, went largely unnoticed until Mansfield published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal this week claiming he was disinvited because of his race and his opinions.
"The invitation was a surprise, and the rejection less of one, because I am a white male conservative professor," Mansfield wrote in the newspaper April 15.
Eric Buzzetti, a professor at the college who disagrees with the snub of Mansfield, said in an interview Thursday the controversy around the scheduled speech led to the decision to cancel the gala.
In a February letter addressed to alumni, Julie Amblard, president of the college's alumni society, Frederick Krantz, the co-founder of the college, and Buzzetti criticized the decision to disinvite Mansfield, who has been a professor at Harvard for 50 years.
"We are saddened that some alumni of the (Liberal Arts College) thought it appropriate to attempt to silence a scholar with whose views they happen to disagree," their letter read. "We are also saddened that their attempt was successful."
Mansfield is known mostly for his scholarship on political philosophy and is considered a world-class expert on Machiavelli.
But Mansfield also writes on gender and culture. His 2006 book "Manliness" has been criticized by for its lack of awareness of modern feminist philosophy, with critics calling it outdated and demeaning. He has written critically of the idea that a "rape culture" prevails on today's university campuses.
In a May 2016 interview with conservative author and commentator Bill Kristol, Mansfield described manliness as "the person who likes to be in charge of situations of risk. He has a take-charge attitude .... Most manly persons are men, but not all. My big example is Margaret Thatcher. Very manly, very assertive in situations of risk. But still, mostly men — but not all men."
Liberal Arts College Principal Mark Russell said Thursday that "a diversity of voices" among the college's alumni spurred the decision to cancel the keynote speech and the gala set for May.
In an email, Russell said, "We heard from many that they would not attend the event because they objected to the views he has expressed publicly on women and homosexuals .... A majority of LAC faculty decided it was best NOT to have Professor Mansfield give the keynote address at the College's reunion since it is intended to be a time of celebration and unity."
Russell said the 40th anniversary celebrations have not been cancelled but "merely postponed to this fall."
Buzzetti, however, questioned whether they will go ahead.
"I hope something will happen," he said. "But it is a bit difficult to organize something and then turn your back on a speaker. It will certainly not happen in May."