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Rove's upcoming visit to Concordia draws criticism

In this Sept. 24, 2005, file photo, President George W. Bush's Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove is welcomed with applause upon his arrival at the Multiband Tower in Fargo. The political adviser spoke about the Republican party's resurgence to members of the North Dakota Republican Party state committee. (Forum file photo)

MOORHEAD -- An upcoming speech by former White House adviser Karl Rove at Concordia College is meeting some opposition on campus.

Rove will speak at Concordia on Sept. 29 at an event sponsored by two conservative student groups and funded by private donors.

Ben Sand, president of the Concordia Conservatives group, said many on campus are excited about Rove's visit, which will be open to the public.

"It's not often you get a political figure of his stature in this area," said Sand, a junior majoring in political science and English.

Alex McIntyre, president of the Campus Republicans, said he hopes the event sparks political discussion on campus.

"I think it's part of the Concordia tradition: open and honest debate from both sides," said McIntyre, a junior and political science major.

That debate already seems to be happening, even though there's been little publicity about the talk so far.

A Facebook group called "Rove doesn't reflect my campus' values" with more than 70 members has generated discussion this week.

Erik Hatlestad, a member of the group and vice president of the Campus Democrats, said some students have expressed "near outrage" about Rove's visit.

"The kind of tactics he stands for are something the college and the United States in general should not be embracing or condoning," said Hatlestad, a sophomore political science major.

Philosophy professor Mark Covey, who created the Facebook group, said he's concerned about how Rove's visit may reflect on Concordia.

"As someone who cares a whole lot about this institution, I would hate to see the values of the institution mischaracterized by association," Covey said.

Concordia does not disclose how much speakers are paid, said spokesman Roger Degerman. A "small amount" of donors are paying for the event, he said.

Rove's fee when he spoke at the University of Iowa in 2008 was $40,000, according to the campus news service.

Concordia has hosted speakers from all ends of the political spectrum, said campus Provost Mark Krejci, such as Ralph Nader, Winona LaDuke and Walter Mondale.

Some criticized last fall's symposium on global warming as pushing a Democrat agenda, he said.

"We want to be a place that facilitates critical inquiry, and that means taking a look at all points of view," Krejci said.

The only time Concordia won't host a speaker is when a political party wants to control the event, Krejci said.

Prior to the 2004 Bush election, Concordia was approached to host Vice President Dick Cheney, but officials said no because the Republican Party did not want it to be open to the public, Krejci said.

Rove's visit to Concordia is one day before he's scheduled to be inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame in Minot, N.D.

In 2005, Rove spoke in Fargo to members of the North Dakota Republican Party state committee.