Controversial author to speak at Akron

“For a guy who has been beaten up after a speech, the University of Akron’s snubbing of Jimmy Santiago Baca was not a huge deal. When I read the (Buchtelite) story, it really surprised me, Baca said. But it’s happened before. I’ve been boycotted several times.”

For a guy who has been beaten up after a speech, the University of Akron’s snubbing of Jimmy Santiago Baca was not a huge deal.

When I read the (Buchtelite) story, it really surprised me, Baca said. But it’s happened before. I’ve been boycotted several times.

UA chose a different book, rather than Baca’s A Place To Stand, because of Baca’s criminal history and the university’s recent bad publicity with felons living in dormatories.

The Buchtelite and the Center for Conflict Management are sponsoring an event on April 10 where Baca will speak about education, literature and the American prison system.

Baca, 54, was at the center of a controversy last month after it was reported that the Common Reading Committee had deferred the use of his book because of his criminal history. Although university officials have said the entire situation was a misunderstanding, Baca recalls being outraged when he was notified of the decision.

This kind of thing had happened before with (Nelson) Mandela’s book, Baca said after agreeing to visit Akron. The details are obviously different, but it’s the same idea.

What makes a great education is when everything is cut loose on the mind. When you cut off those opportunities, you do a disservice to the students. Making educational decisions based on a fear of bad publicity kind of stands in the way of that.

But this instance was not the first hardship for Baca as a public speaker.

Another time I was speaking, and there was a group of guys who didn’t believe Mexicans should have a right to speak on stage. So after the presentation, they beat me up. It was three on one. I held them off pretty well, though. Pretty good for my age, huh?

Baca has written 16 books since learning to read and write while in prison. In his most recent memoir, A Place to Stand, Baca tells how a life of violence and hate led him to prison and how a new love for poetry became his saving grace.

The Buchtelite invited Baca to campus to show the campus was not afraid to hear Baca’s story, regardless of potential public relations issues, according to editor in chief Mike Rasor.

University spokesperson Paul Herold said he and president Luis Proenza, will be proud to welcome Baca.

The event begins at 7:30 p.m. in Student Union Ballroom A and is free and open to the public. Along with his lecture, Baca will also hold a writing workshop April 11. The workshop can accommodate 25 students. Students interested in participating in the writing workshop should contact Buchtelite adviser Bruce Zake at (330) 972-5475.