You’d think that college officials who watched another St. Paul university get a public relations black eye for barring a speaker would have more sense than to do the same thing.

Yet on Tuesday, it was reported that the College of St. Catherine has blocked an appearance by conservative Bay Buchanan, an outspoken supporter of the McCain-Palin ticket. About a year ago, the University of St. Thomas said no to a campus appearance by Nobel Peace prize winner Desmond Tutu, a decision that stirred up considerable controversy here and elsewhere.

Buchanan was scheduled to speak Wednesday at a "tea and conversation" event sponsored by the St. Kate’s College Republicans. St. Kate’s spokeswoman Amy Gage told Star Tribune reporter Paul Walsh that the school made its decision because "we are doing our best in the political season to remain nonpartisan as an institution.’’ She said that Buchanan is welcome back after the election and that the school also stopped Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken from speaking at the school earlier this month.

St. Kate’s officials don't deserve a passing grade for their thought process on this one. Colleges should be places for robust discussions and expression, especially during an election. St. Kate’s needs a refresher course on this. They would do well to bring in folks from Gustavus Adolphus College to teach it. Buchanan, by the way, spoke on the Gustavus campus back in April at an event sponsored by the College Republicans, Young America’s Foundation, Gustavus Diversity Center, President’s Office, Dean’s Office, the Political Science Department and Residential Life.

Hank Toutain, the Gustavus dean of students and vice president for student affairs, said the St. Peter, Minn., school has long welcomed a broad array of speakers. "We’re in the teaching business because we think discussion and expression of all viewpoints is something that ought to happen at a place like Gustavus...That’s something we actively promote.’’

During the school’s recent Nobel conference, Toutain said, there were scientists talking about the origins of modern humans while at the other end of campus, students were listening to a speaker on creationism.

Gustavus has the right idea: nurturing students’ civic involvement by promoting a wide array of ideas on campus, and then letting students weigh the evidence as they decide who they will support. More speech is always better than less speech.

Buchanan will speak on Wednesday anyway off campus at the Luci Ancora restaurant. Her appearance is scheduled at 3 p.m. She's then scheduled to give a talk --- the topic: "Feminism and the 2008 Election"-- later on Wednesday at the University of Minnesota's Coffman Memorial Union. A writer for the Young America’s Foundation put together a thoughtful essay on the Buchanan situation, correctly taking St. Kate's to task for quashing, rather than promoting, intellectual diversity. To read it, click here.