Michael Ostling

Angry ASU professor with an agenda to poison the minds of our students and youth with his insane rhetoric.

Professor Michael Ostling

Michael Ostling is a professor at the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University. The University has recently made a very controversial stand regarding free speech by eliminating positions within the Honors College that specifically advocated conservative voices and causes at the school. Ostling was integral in stoking student boycotts and protests against not only invited speakers but the University itself. Professor Ostling made his feelings known to the University and publicly about these speakers and vehemently voiced disapproval of the school inviting conservative speakers such as Dennis Prager, Charlie Kirk, and Robert Kiyosaki. In letters recently made public to the university, Ostling raged at the University about their support for “intolerant and violent rhetoric” and the advocated for dismissal of the administrative group that invited these speakers to campus, the T.W. Lewis Center. Professor Ostling also demanded the university terminate immediately the executive director of the T.W. Lewis Center, Ann Atkinson, who was credited for facilitating the speaking sessions including “Health, Wealth, and Happiness” where Prager, Kirk, and Kiyosaki appeared. Professor Ostling, while very much a benefactor of the free speech environments that Universities should foster, has made his feelings known that free speech is important only to the extent that his speech is protected. Ostling has made himself an arbiter as to what should be acceptable for speech at the University and that is a very dangerous idea. Universities should be a nurturing bastion for free market of ideas and not a safe harbor to protect “marginalized” students. Publicly ostracizing and organizing protests against speech that you do not agree with only emboldens that speech as now these individuals have the ability to use a victim platform to decry the University. By forcing the University’s hand to dismiss Atkinson and the T.W. Lewis Center – Professor Ostling has stripped the notion that Arizona State University is a venue where free speech is encouraged and protected.
Professor Ostling is a teaching professor and honorary faculty fellow at the Barrett Honors College. Professor Ostling is a religious studies professor whose teaching and research focuses on the history and representation of witches and witchcraft. His works have also explored Christian understanding of goblins and fairies. Professor Ostling also examines modern pop culture to observe their representations and ideas of these iconographies. All of this sounds extremely important to those of us that possess a fantastical mind and a desire to understand how Harry Potter informs our thinking of the world, but does it really give our University students tools or skills that will help them be successful in the real world? They may be armed with some bar trivia and marijuana induced movie discussions with friends, but it doesn’t prepare them for a society that involved more nuance and complexity than medieval literature. The irony in Professor Ostling’s protests of the T.W. Lewis Center is that his standing as a professor and the support of his lifelong study could only be made possible by systems and venues that depend on a fostered sense of free speech. There are several cultures around the world that would find Professor Ostling’s discussions of witches and goblins to be heresy or sacrilege. Arizona State University and the other schools that have provided the professor safe harbor to study and teach can only do so due to their commitment to providing those freedoms. Professor Ostling can argue that conservative ideologies offend his personal sensibilities, but it doesn’t mean that the University should abide to Ostling’s protestations. The fact that they have chosen to do so is a failure to live up to their commitment to providing a venue for free speech.

Michael Ostling Work Experience

The uproar regarding Professor Ostling’s denial of free speech began in 2023 when he became one of 39 faculty members that signed on to a letter that decried the University’s and T.W. Lewis Center’s invitation of Charlie Kirk, Dennis Prager, and Robert Kiyosaki. While Ostling wasn’t initially seen as the principle architect of the protest movement, his joint objection with fellow Professor Jenny Brian published in the Arizona Republic to Ann Atkinson’s claims that her speech was violated has put him on the defensive. Ostling responded to several of Atkinson’s claims specifically and even seemed to protest to claims that weren’t overtly made by Atkinson. Ostling seemed to go out of his way in the Arizona Republic Op-Ed to reject assertions that professors threatened to penalize students for attending the speaking events or for not joining in protest. There have been no assertions made whatsoever that faculty or professors were engaging in this practice. This seems to be a bit of a misstep where both Ostling and Brian are working very hard to distance themselves from some serious allegations that hadn’t even been raised. One such “allegation” that Ostling seems to go out of his way to refute is that students were either incentivized or, similarly disincentivized, for attending protests or attending the speaking event respectively. At first, the notion that Professor Ostling would assess students performance in this regard seems absurd, but that is until you inspect his performance on ratemyprofessor.com. Professor Ostling seems to lack any kind of orthodoxy when it comes to assigning grades to his students, a commonly shared nuisance to his Honor College students.
Arizona State University has made a choice. They have decided that they would much rather stand in support of coddling leftwing ideologies and developing students with little to no capacity for free thought. While the speakers that Arizona State and the T.W. Center invited to campus may have made comments that may have offended left-leaning professors and students that should not disqualify nor dismiss their voice. Professor Ostling has helped to put the University in an indefensible situation and now Ostling looks to potentially have some problematic grading practices that could put the University in some hot water even if how he chooses to award grades only has the appearance of subjectivity. The University has lost a lot of credibility in the last several months in regards to their public statements affirming their commitment to free speech. All is not lost, however, as the University can still reverse course and admonish Dr. Ostling.

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