A column published on Monday by the National Review identified Jason Riley, a Wall Street Journal columnist and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, as the latest conservative speaker to be disinvited from a university speaking engagement. And it strongly criticized Virginia Tech, the institution said to have turned Mr. Riley away.
But a Virginia Tech official said on Tuesday that Mr. Riley’s invitation could not have been revoked because it was never extended in the first place.
The National Review article was written by two members of the conservative-leaning National Association of Scholars: Peter Wood, the president, and Rachelle Peterson, the director of research. (Mr. Wood has been a frequent Chronicle contributor.) It said that Virginia Tech had rescinded an invitation for Mr. Riley to speak as part of the Pamplin College of Business’s BB&T Distinguished Lecture series, probably because of “negative attention” Mr. Riley received for a 2014 book titled Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.
Twitter chatter soon erupted, and Timothy D. Sands, Virginia Tech’s president, responded that his office was “investigating” the situation:
— Timothy D Sands (@VTSandsman) May 3, 2016
Robert T. Sumichrast, dean of the Pamplin College of Business, released a letter later in the day stating that Mr. Riley had never been extended an invitation.
As part of the lecture series, he said, the finance department invites one speaker to the campus each semester. A faculty member had reached out to Mr. Riley to weigh his interest in speaking, Mr. Sumichrast said, but an invitation was never extended, and the faculty member “does not represent the committee’s voice.” The committee instead selected Robert J. Barro, a professor of economics at Harvard, to speak.
Mr. Riley rejected that characterization in an interview with The Roanoke Times. “I don’t buy this line that I wasn’t invited,” he told the newspaper on Tuesday. “Based on my understanding of the English language, it sounded like an invitation to me.”
The lecture series brought controversy and protests to the university earlier this semester, when Charles Murray, a co-author of the 1994 book The Bell Curve, was invited to speak in late March. The university did not disinvite the Mr. Murray, but Mr. Sands wrote a letter to the campus community that called Mr. Murray’s work “widely discredited.”
“Virginia Tech is not an intellectual island,” he wrote. “Even when views run counter to our Principles of Community, we cannot ignore them. We must engage.”