the executive director of Arizona State University’s T. W. Lewis Center for Personal Development said she’s being fired next week and her center is closing because she organized an event featuring Charlie Kirk, Robert Kiyosaki and Dennis Prager.
Ann Atkinson wrote in The Wall Street Journal Monday that the February event “outraged” faculty members at ASU’s honors college, Barrett, which houses the center.
“Thirty-nine of its 47 faculty signed a letter to the dean condemning the event on grounds that the speakers are ‘purveyors of hate who have publicly attacked women, people of color, the LGBTQ community [and] institutions of our democracy,’” Atkinson wrote. “The signers decried ASU ‘platforming and legitimating’ their views, describing Messrs. Prager and Kirk as ‘white nationalist provocateurs.’”
Kirk founded and leads the conservative group Turning Point USA, which focuses on colleges and high schools; Prager is a conservative talk show host who founded the PragerU video website; and Kiyosaki wrote Rich Dad Poor Dad and two books with former president Donald Trump.
In an email Tuesday to Inside Higher Ed, an ASU spokesperson wrote,
The event in question was held and was a success. Ms. Atkinson’s current job at the university will no longer exist after June 30 because the donor who created and funded the Lewis Center decided to terminate his donation. ASU is working to determine how we can support the most impactful elements of the center without that external funding. Ms. Atkinson, whose job is linked to the funding for the center, like all such employees is then eligible for other jobs at ASU. This is the normal process and she has been treated like everyone else.
The T. W. Lewis Foundation, which also supports PragerU and Turning Point USA, didn’t respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Atkinson told Inside Higher Ed that the namesake, Tom Lewis, did cancel his donation this spring, in the wake of the event and public criticism he personally received.
“My view is that he could no longer in good conscience support an organization like Barrett,” Atkinson said. She said she approached Barrett’s dean with new donor funding, conditioned on maintaining the current donor intent, but the dean “expressed no interest in continuing the Lewis Center as it is. She wants to redesign programming at Barrett to collaborate with the faculty.”