Bristol Palin's Abstinence Talk at Washington University Panel Cancelled after Student Outcry

Bristol Palin visits "Good Morning America" on Nov. 24, 2010, in New York.
Jemal Countess/Getty Images
Bristol Palin during a visit to "Good Morning America" on Nov. 24, 2010, in New York.
Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Bristol Palin's scheduled appearance on a Washington University panel has been canceled, according to the University, after outrage over the appearance prompted protests from students.

Palin, the daughter of 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, was scheduled to speak on a February panel about abstinence as part of the university's Sexual Responsibility Week. The 20-year-old single mother is an ambassador to the Candie's Foundation, which encourages abstinence among teenagers.

Many students at the university's St. Louis campus protested Palin's planned visit, prompting the issue to be taken up at a student Senate meeting this week.

Among the students' objections to the visit was the matter of Palin's pricetag: According to the St. Louis Today, the Student Union Treasury at Washington University approved a $20,000 budget for the event. The student government did not disclose Palin's exact fee for the appearance. She has been known to charge anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 per occasion.

"It's not necessarily in opposition to the ideas that are being presented," said Philip Thomas, a Washington University student who started an online petition protesting Palin's appearance, in an interview with the St. Louis Today. "People are getting so angry because of the opposition to Palin's lack of expertise and the high cost she is charging." He said the outrage over the fee was driven in part by anger over recent budget cuts that have affected other student activities.

Washington University released a statement on Friday explaining the Student Health Advisory Committee's decision to cancel Palin's appearance that emphasized that the decision had been "mutually agreed" upon.

"Because of the growing controversy among undergraduates over the decision to pay for her talk with student-generated funds, the Student Health Advisory Committee and Palin decided that the message that they intended on sharing would be overshadowed by controversy," the statement said.

Palin's replacement on the panel will be Dr. Katie Plax, head adolescent medicine and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine. According to Student Life, a campus newspaper at the school, Flax will be joined on the panel by representatives from the University's Catholic Student Center, Planned Parenthood and Student Health Services.

Washington University sophomore Sherveen Mashayekhi, who is also president of the College Democrats, said he was pleased with the resolution.

"We are happy that SHAC, and Bristol Palin herself, responded to the student body's concerns," he told Student Life. "It's a sad state of politics at Wash. U. when Bristol Palin is what required us to get politically active."