Last week, conservative author and political commentator Ben Shapiro was barred from speaking at Gonzaga University. The administration claimed that Shapiro’s presence would be contrary to the “Catholic/Jesuit mission and values” of the university. Worth noting, however, is that it wasn’t Shapiro’s conservative viewpoints that would damage the school’s mission, but something else entirely.
Gonzaga Vice President of Student Development Judi Biggs Garbuio stated, “Mr. Shapiro’s appearances routinely draw protests that include extremely divisive and hateful speech and behavior, which is offensive to many people, regardless of their age, politics or beliefs.” Finally, we can admit that it’s not actually the conservative speaker whose viewpoints are threatening, but, rather, the liberal protesters who storm in droves to silence dissenting political beliefs.
It is indeed true, folks, that Shapiro’s speaking engagements are routinely hijacked by leftist college students aiming to mute conservative viewpoints on campus through threats of violence. This is a trend, and Gonzaga is no exception.
When Shapiro spoke at UC Berkley last year, raucous protests broke out among students opposed to the conservative’s mere presence on campus. Nine people were arrested, four of whom were found to be in possession of banned weapons. All told, the event cost $600,000 for security as hundreds of officers, donning riot gear, hunkered down to protect the right’s intellectual martyr from the militant, left-wing student populace.
Across the nation, conservative speakers are threatened by violent protests in opposition to their very presence on campus. Not all universities get it as wrong as Gonzaga, though.
In January, Ben Shapiro was invited by the College Republicans to speak at the University of Connecticut. There were no violent protests. No arrests. No need for extensive and costly security measures to ensure free speech. The event went off nearly without a hitch. Thus, conservative students, like myself, enjoyed the intellectual proprieties of Shapiro’s mainstream conservative arguments, while leftist students received the opportunity to gain an understanding of the other side’s political stance, if for nothing more than to further entrench them in their own beliefs.
The fact of the matter is that this particular event at UConn was an exception. Leftist students routinely resist conservative speaking engagements. When Shapiro spoke at the University of Minnesota, protestors warned “Ben Shapiro has got to go” and chanted “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Ben Shapiro go away.” Meritless. Childish. But, catchy, I will concede.
The difference between universities that reluctantly host conservatives and Gonzaga is their unwillingness to cave to the violent masses.
“This is the purist example I’ve seen since DePaul, another Jesuit university, of a university shutting down a speech because the hecklers veto it,” Shapiro stated.
With certainty, safety was an issue in Spokane. “Gonzaga's events policy requires us to consider whether an event would pose substantial risk to the safety of any member of our campus community,” explained Judi Biggs Garbuio. The verdict?
Violence trumps free speech.
That’s a dangerous game, folks. The vast majority of universities endure violent protests and threatening crowds in response to their hosting of conservatives, but refuse to cave to the heckler’s veto. If platforms for intellectual discussion are going to shut down in response to threats of violence, dissent becomes virtually impossible within the political arena.
The truth is that, as a private university, Gonzaga can do what it wants. But, the fact of the matter is that administrators didn’t help their students by choosing to “stand in solidarity with vulnerable members of our community who may be targeted for discrimination, ridicule, or harassment by others.” You mean, you’re protecting conservatives from “discrimination, ridicule, or harassment” by shutting down the expression of their viewpoints? Thanks, Gonzaga. We owe you one.
Ben Shapiro subscribes to very mainstream conservative ideologies. He’s not a radical piece of human excrement like white-supremacist Richard Spencer, nor is he a racist or anti-Semite, like Luis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton. Yet, when Shapiro visited UConn in January, counseling and “safe spaces” were provided to students who felt threatened… by conservative beliefs. It’s more beneficial for students to be exposed to dissent.
The truth is, believe it or not, that conservatives say dumb stuff sometimes. If you don’t hear it because you’re hunkered down in a “safe space,” then you can’t use it against them in debate.
It’s excellent, for example, that the Daily Campus publishes my work expressing conservative arguments because it exposes dissenting students to mainstream conservative beliefs, forcing them to think critically and question their own stance.
Evidently, this is not part of Gonzaga’s mission and, unfortunately, its students will be dumber for it. But, at least, Gonzaga’s conservative students weren’t discriminated against.
Kevin Catapano is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.