New Starr lecture date may be close
UNM denies pressure led to postponement
University of New Mexico’s law school dean is strongly denying that public pressure prompted postponement of a recent Ken Starr lecture, saying he values lively debate and is already closing in on a new date for the event.
Dean Sergio Pareja is also defending the decision to delay Starr’s planned UNM appearance — one he said the parties made together— writing in a new letter that rescheduling could allow tensions to wane following Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. The hearings “had ignited public opinion and re-traumatized some assault survivors,” and the university did not want to appear “tone deaf” to women’s concerns, he wrote.
“I am a believer in the free flow of ideas, and we invited Judge Starr to speak here precisely because his lecture will generate a healthy debate,” Pareja wrote in a letter to the Journal. “... That said, sometimes circumstances can so inflame emotions that we actually risk stifling debate and shifting focus away from the topic rather than promoting a healthy exchange of views.”
He said the university is
now tentatively looking to host Starr on Jan. 23.
Starr, a onetime independent counsel who led a probe into Bill Clinton, was set to visit UNM on Nov. 1 for a free lecture called “Investigating the President, Now and Then: Living in a Constitutional Quagmire.” But UNM and Starr decided to postpone about a week ahead of time. UNM gave no new date and little explanation in an emailed notice of the change.
The school’s assistant dean told the Journal then that it was a timing issue and effort to be “sensitive to what was going on nationally,” but provided few specifics other than saying Starr had ties to Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh had worked on the Clinton investigation, and his Supreme Court appointment sparked controversy after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct in the 1980s.
The law school had faced backlash for inviting Starr given his history at Baylor University. Starr resigned as Baylor’s president and chancellor in 2016 amid scandal over the university’s handling of sexual assault cases involving football players.
Pareja said in an interview Friday the Baylor history was not part of the postponement decision, and that the heated debate surrounding Kavanaugh was his chief concern.
While nobody specifically signaled their intention to overtake the event with Kavanaugh discussion, he said he feared that could happen.
“Really what did it to me was just watching on TV those images of the people shouting at the confirmation hearings . ... I was just worried it was just going to devolve into a whole conversation about Kavanaugh and we can’t even hear about investigating the president,” he said.