Lecture advertisement creates controversy

Christina Stafford

Philosophy department’s guest speaker cancelled lecure due to misleading poster

The author of a controversial poster that caused a guest lecturer to cancel a lecture Wednesday is still unknown.

“The philosophy department is not admitting responsibility,” said associate professor of philosophy Michael Byron.

Byron confirmed that Peter French, a philosophy professor at Arizona State University who was supposed to speak at Kent State Wednesday on “Being Morally Challenged By Collective Memories,” said he canceled his lecture because of the controversial promotional poster.

The poster promoting the event contained a section describing the event’s topics, including the idea that Serbian men are “compelled to rape and murder Kosovar women and children.”

An article posted at www.serbannia.com on March 2, five days before the scheduled lecture, accused French of coming to Kent State to “say that Serbian people are rapists and killers because they are delusional about their history during the time when they lived under the Islamic Law in Kosovo.” The article did not have a byline.

French said his 20-page paper included one small paragraph in which he cited reports stating that Slobodan Milosevic and others used the 1389 battle on the Field of Blackbirds to motivate Serbs against Muslims of the former Yugoslavia.

“I am so sick and tired of this mess generated by what seems to be a deliberate misinterpretation of the paper I was planning to read,” he said.

Aleksandar Jokic, a philosophy professor at Portland State University, said the poster’s author not only misinterpreted French’s ideas but actually posed as French himself – in the same “blurb,” the author uses the word “I” implying that the section was written by French.

In an e-mail French sent to Kent State, he wrote “I make no such claim. Nor do I make any of the other wild claims now attributed to me on other Web sites.”

He said the poster was initially constructed to generate buzz from its audience, but it has garnered a little more than excitement in the past few days.

“I have received a large number of harassing e-mails from within the United States and from abroad, accusing me of racism, being a closet Islamist, collaborating with those who would destroy Western Civilization, being in the pay of the Saudi Royal Family, and much more,” French wrote. “I was told to expect a very unpleasant experience at Kent State should I dare to give the paper.”

After consulting with his family and attorney, French said he decided speaking at Kent State would be unwise.

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Christina Stafford at [email protected]. Minority affairs reporter Amadeus Smith contributed to this story.