Guidelines for Wagner-Invited Speaker Invitations

These guidelines are intended to convey the sense of the faculty with respect to invitations extended by the School to outside speakers. It builds on the University’s Guidelines for Administrative Implementation of NYU Policies on Speech, Speakers, and Dissent and Guidelines Regarding Protest and Dissent.

Note that these guidelines do not convey policy around student group invitations or invitations by individual faculty to participate in a class. The principles of academic freedom govern these situations. Rather, this document describes our intended practices with respect to invitations from the School in its institutional and collective capacity (named lectures, Debates of the Century, Dean’s invited speakers, Convocation speakers, etc.).

As a school of public service, it is part of our role to expose our students to a broad range of views, even if those views make them uncomfortable. We believe that students should, while they are in a relatively safe environment, learn about and become ready to respond to controversial or heterodox views that are part of some policy debates, so that they will be better able to engage with these views once they have graduated. At the same time, we do not believe that it is appropriate or desirable for us to invite speakers who refuse to engage with alternative views, who do not back up their positions with factual evidence, or who will be blatantly disrespectful to our community. So while we invite controversy, we do not seek speakers who would use our platform primarily to titillate or provoke by airing divergent views.

With these goals in mind:

  1. For most events, the School (as an institution) will invite speakers (whether or not they hold views that some might consider controversial) only if they are willing to take questions and engage respectfully with interlocutors and with the audience (panels, lectures with Q&A, etc.). Questions may be filtered through a moderator to ensure appropriateness and avoid grand-standing.  
  2. For events where event circumstances make such engagement impossible (e.g. Convocation), we intend to select speakers who:

    1. Have had a substantial, visible, and positive effect on public service or scholarship on public service; and

    2. Can reasonably be expected to address the audience respectfully.

We intend to be more sensitive about the nature of speakers in these circumstances both because there is no opportunity for response or engagement, and because the principal purpose of such events is celebratory and so should reflect as much of our community as possible. We recognize, however, that given the wide diversity of opinion that exists within our community, it may be impossible to identify appropriate speakers who are acceptable to every member of our community.