NFL Hall of Famer and former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, who was invited to speak at EC on leadership and success, postponed his lecture after making a racial comment during a national pregame interview.
With a possibility of protests after Ditka said that, “There has been no oppression in the last hundred years,” on Oct. 9, the college sent out an email on Oct. 12 stating the lecture had been postponed because the atmosphere was not conducive to the free exchange of ideas that EC holds highly.
Administration wanted to make it clear in emails to the Leader that it was strictly Ditka and his management who made the decision to postpone and not solely the college.
“We certainly did not rescind any offer to speak,” EC President Troy VanAken wrote in an email interview.
Interim Director of Communications and Public Affairs Desiree Chen confirmed, “Mike Ditka and [EC] decided mutually on Oct. 12 to postpone the lecture.”
Students, however, were under the impression EC decided to postpone the lecture or even had canceled the lecture all together.
One student took to Facebook, sparking a debate on the EC student page, writing it was ridiculous to not allow Ditka to give the lecture.
“Our school and its students need to grow up and understand that people are going to have different views and different beliefs from themselves,” wrote EC senior Costaki Danegelis. “The world isn’t going to be as nice and welcoming as [EC].”
EC senior Jen Anthony responded, “So you think the college should invite people to speak who say that nearly 40 percent of our student body doesn’t experience discrimination? Essentially saying their experience of life is false? That’s rich.”
Meanwhile, students questioned if Ditka’s comment should take away from the topic of his lecture.
“He was coming to give a lecture about leadership, and I feel [his] comment has nothing to do with what he was talking about,” said EC junior Taylor Neidhardt.
Nick Caruso, EC senior, thought the image Ditka created for himself was enough to cancel the lecture because it would have become the focus even if it was not the intended topic.
“I know there’s debate because his presentation is not about that topic, but it’s still an image you create. When you have a speaker here, you’re drawing them in based on their image, and what they talk about comes second,” Caruso said. “There is no doubt in my mind that if he came here that would be on a lot of people’s minds and that would take away from the presentation and why he was here in the first place and it would be a waste of his time and of our time.”
EC sophomore Jacqueline Miranda thought this could be a learning point for both Ditka and EC.
“If the speech would have taken place, students have the right to ask questions regarding Ditka’s public comments,” Miranda said. “Even if Ditka would have been made uncomfortable, those were his comments and if he was truly apologetic answering uncomfortable questions would not be a problem.”
Miranda continued, “Postponing the speech doesn’t make the problem go away, it just deflects the issue.”