JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Citing the handling of an on-campus assault at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) last week, state Sen. David Sater suggested the college’s chancellor step down from his position.
A UMKC student was arrested last week for allegedly assaulting a controversial conservative guest speaker by spraying an unknown substance at him and others, according to reports. The substance appeared to be a mixture of non-toxic liquids and lavender oil, UMKC officials have said.
Michael Knowles, who was supposed to give a speech entitled “Men are Not Women,” was invited to the public university campus by the school’s Young Americans for Freedom student group.
After the altercation, UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal initially praised the students who protested the guest speaker, particularly the “peaceful protesters [who] stood and expressed disagreement with the speaker’s views.”
“[O]ur campus witnessed a collision of two principles that we steadfastly support: the right to free expression and the right to civil protest in response to views we disagree with,” Agrawal said in a statement. “The evening’s events laid bare deep divisions that exist in our society today — divisions that UMKC works diligently to address through education, support, and commitment to our values.”
Agrawal’s response to the incident drew ire from state senators Monday afternoon. Sater, a Republican, suggested the chancellor should resign his position.
“As far as I’m concerned, he should go,” Sater said from the Senate floor.
Agrawal later apologized for any misconception stemming from his original sentiments.
“As far as I’m concerned, he should go.”
“My original statement may have given an indication that UMKC does not support freedom of expression for all. I apologize if I’ve given that impression, for that was not my intention,” he said. “It is not the university’s role to take sides, but to rise to the higher principle of promoting a respectful exchange of ideas for our students to form their own views and engage in critical thinking.”
During the floor discussion about the chancellor’s comments, Democratic state Sen. Jason Holsman said he wanted to give Agrawal the “opportunity for him to recognize [his] mistake and address the statement and make it right in terms of essentially redefining his position on what happened.”
Holsman also urged lawmakers to make sure any reprimand regarding the response is directed at the chancellor himself, not the students at UMKC, which is in his district. He said “anything short of denouncing that violence falls short,” but rejected calls to reduce any funding provided to the university.
The national arm of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) — which sponsored the event — called the chancellor’s response “a pathetic and transparent attempt to mollify the same leftists who were prepared to resort to violence in order to silence conservatives.”
The chancellor “should condemn this violent action and pledge to protect the First Amendment of all students, not just those with whom he agrees,” Spencer Brown, YAF’s spokesman, told The Missouri Times. “If the chancellor is unwilling to protect the First Amendment expression of all students, he disqualifies himself from effectively leading an institution dedicated to higher learning.”
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the newspaper in 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.