SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: October 14, 2014

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Utah State University

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 14, 2014, feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian cancelled a speaking engagement scheduled to take place the following day at Utah State University, after the school received an anonymous email threatening “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if the event went forward.

Although Sarkeesian had planned on proceeding with the speaking engagement despite the threat, she withdrew after campus police reportedly informed her that, under Utah’s concealed carry gun laws, they could not necessarily prevent guns from being brought into the event.

Sarkeesian, an outspoken critic of what she sees as misogynistic trends in video games and video game culture, has reportedly been the subject of escalating threats in recent months.  The Utah State University incident, however, represents the first time such threats led her to cancel a speaking engagement.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about threats of physical violence on campus, particularly when intended to silence, limit or retaliate for on-campus expression. Threats of violence have a chilling effect on academic freedom and institutional autonomy. State and university officials have an obligation to ensure the security of the university space from intimidation and violence, and to do so in a manner consistent with core values, including academic freedom and free expression.