According to an opinion piece in the Cougar Chronicle from BYU student Garrett Hostetter, a debate on the Dobbs decision was canceled for Fall of 2022 at the BYU Law School. Hostetter wrote on April 11 of this year, “I was texted that word: Canceled.” However, this is not the only account of the incident.
READ: BYU Cancels Debate Event on Abortion: Beams before Motes
The debate on Dobbs and abortion set to take place between Professors Duncan and Gedicks never happened. The first article the Chronicle published was on April 11. However, documents obtained by the Chronicle show that prior to April – in February of 2023 – another student involved with the Federalist Society corroborated Hostetter’s explanation in the April 11th article.
According to the February source, the administration “made [the Federalist Society] cancel” the speaking event because students got “offended” by professor Duncan.
According to Hostetter’s article, “[L]ast year when [Duncan] spoke at the BYU Federalist Society, some students got ‘offended.’” The February source did not want a report published at the time because of extenuating circumstances.
After Hostetter’s article, the National Review (NR) published an article on April 12 in which an addendum was added. The first addendum to the article said a “source at BYU law school” said Duncan’s debate “generated complaints that Duncan had been ‘disrespectful’ to a university DEI administrator.”
Later the same day, the Chronicle published an update about the addendum. Our updated report quoted three students who were at the original event where Duncan was said to be “disrespectful.” All three gave positive accounts with one saying that Duncan and the other debater “hugged, held hands afterward, and got a standing ovation.”
READ: Complaints of ‘disrespectful’ Speaker Used to Cancel Abortion Debate Appear Unfounded
On April 14, the Deseret News (DN) then published a report highlighting the canceled event and Senator Mike Lee’s thoughts on the incident.
The BYU Law School made an official statement to the DN, saying, “BYU Law School has one of the most active student chapters of the Federalist Society. With Law School approval, the Federalist Society hosts numerous speakers… to our knowledge, no Federalist Society event has ever been denied.”
“The assistant dean of students, who administers the policy, informed the organizers that the event would need to go through appropriate channels but expressed concern about the anticipated timing of the event and suggested that they explore hosting the event the following semester,” the statement continued.
There was no mention of Duncan’s behavior in the DN article statement and no mention of the approval process in the NR statement. Both are missing key points from each other and appear to tell different stories.
Although the source for the NR article was not marked as an official spokesman for the school, the addendum was made after publishing, suggesting the Law School source was responding to defend against the accusations from the report.
On April 19, Hostetter penned another piece at the DN, and said, “Had the school administration spoken with the Federalist Society students… they would have no doubt discovered that the president of the society had filled out the proper forms and had received permission for the event.”
“In claiming that ‘no Federalist Society event has ever been denied,’ to their knowledge, the school administration must also be forgetting the communication they sent the student president of our Federalist Society chapter stating, ‘we are going to cancel Professor Duncan’s debate,’ and referencing ‘the reaction the last time he visited’ as a reason for the cancellation,” Hostetter added in the article.
This report will be updated as needed.
Written by: Thomas Stevenson
Editor Emeritus and Founder of the Cougar Chronicle
The Cougar Chronicle is an independent student-run newspaper and is not affiliated with Brigham Young University or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.