Student author speaks of bringing Michael Moore to UVSC

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

Joseph Vogel, a graduate of Utah Valley State College and author of Free Speech 101: The Utah Valley Uproar over Michael Moore, said America has lived to see the second coming of McCarthyism at Monday’s Hinckley Institute of Politics event.

Vogel was invited to speak as part of the Marriott Library’s “September Project,” intended to “provide forums for remembering the tragedy of Sept. 11 through constructive ways which can strengthen our democracy,” said program chair Juli Hinz.

Working as student body president in 2004, Vogel brought political filmmaker Michael Moore to the UVSC campus as a guest speaker, causing intense controversy and “mass hysteria” in Utah County, Vogel said.

“As soon as we announced that Moore was coming, people sent us death threats and news stations came in to stop us. I was even sent e-mails saying that I should be tarred, feathered and run out of the state,” Vogel said. “People were saying that I had betrayed my religion and my country and that they were going to come after me-it was pretty scary.”

Although UVSC faculty and administration were largely supportive of the event, university donors planned secret meetings to convince the school of the damage that Moore would cause, Vogel said, offering $40,000 to keep him from speaking. One donor pulled a $1.4-million art collection from the school. State legislators held $37 million of funding for the school, threatening to remove funding for a new library if Moore was allowed to speak.

After three votes on the issue, the predominantly conservative student council voted 17 to three in favor of Moore coming to UVSC.

“Students were saying to me, ‘I don’t like Michael Moore, but that doesn’t mean his speech should be silenced,'” Vogel said.

On Oct. 14, 2004, less than a month before the presidential elections, Moore was greeted at UVSC by mass protests. Traffic gridirons were set up in roadways to keep people from driving to the campus.

Despite a hostile environment, Moore delivered his speech, bringing positive effects to the student body, Vogel said. “Students were talking about issues that mattered. That’s what a healthy campus and a healthy democracy should be like,” he said. During that semester, UVSC had the highest number of registered voters it had ever seen.

With the writing and publishing of his book, Vogel was forced to resign his position as student body president. He is now a graduate student and adjunct professor at Brigham Young University, hoping to convey the importance of free speech to his students. He received the UVSC Martin Luther King Jr. Award in 2004.

“I’d like to lead a revolution of independent, earnest free thinking, with students realizing our power to make this country better,” Vogel said.

U senior Paul Tippetts, a double major in public relations and political science, was on the UVSC student council with Vogel in 2004 and shares his advocacy for free speech.

“Many of our political leaders are so focused on maintaining political power that they neglect free speech-one of the ‘inalienable rights’ that is so fundamental for our democracy,” Tippetts said.

Kim Peterson

Joseph Vogel, former UVSC vice president and pivotal character in the controversial appearance of Michael Moore at the college in 2004, describes the events that surrounded the controversy in OSH on Monday morning.