Bristol Palin was removed from a sexual health panel at Washing University, in St. Louis, after students protested against paying her a speaker’s fee. The university’s Student Health Advisory Committee had requested Palin participate in the panel, to be held Feb 7, to discuss abstinence and preventing teen pregnancy.
Palin, daughter of former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, was pregnant at 17 and has a two-year old son. A notice from the university on Thursday announcing that Palin would be pulled from the panel, stated that both the health committee and Palin had agreed “that the message that they intended on sharing would be overshadowed by controversy.” The students’ union had approved $20,000 to fund the event, though the specifics about how much Palin would be paid have not been made public.
When learning of Palin’s participation, the campus erupted in protest. Online petitions were signed, and Washington University College Democrats organized a Facebook group in opposition to the talk, and encouraged students to protest the event. The group’s organizers stated that it is an “irresponsible use of Washington University resources” to spend funds “on a fifteen-minute-fame speaker who contributes little to the intellectual fire of the university.”
At a student senate meeting last Wednesday students considered the possibility of holding a referendum to prevent Palin’s talk from being funded. One student held a sign that read, “Can I get paid for an accident too?”
Scott Elman, president of the health committee that initially invited Palin, has defended his group’s decision, stating, “As a young mother, Bristol Palin has turned her personal experiences into a positive by promoting abstinence on college campuses.”