@Gonzaga_Prez In your “About” page you list, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion”. Then I see Ben Shapiro is not allowed to speak. Hypocrisy to say the least. Jesus is watching Brother!
— David Halseth (@david_halseth) December 23, 2018
Disappointed in Gonzaga decision re @benshapiro . I attended G- Prep and spent a yr living/working/teaching w Jesuits in Mozambique. Denying him lecture opportunity is antithetical to its intellectual values, a disservice to GU students and frustrating to taxpayers support of GU. https://t.co/m8xc1QTqDW
— Michael Baumgartner (@VoteBaumgartner) December 21, 2018
Now Washington state legislators have gotten involved, sending a powerful letter to the president of the university, reported The Daily Wire. Twenty legislators signed the letter, which begins with a request for reconsideration over having Shapiro speak on campus.
Then it goes for the jugular: “We are greatly disappointed in the university’s decision. Campuses should be places of rigorous, free debate that respects the marketplace of ideas from all people of race, religion, ethnicity or political views.”
“Higher education institutions should welcome opportunities for students to hear people and ideas they have not yet fully considered. While Gonzaga University is a private institution, students are eligible for state financial aid. State taxpayer dollars should not be used to promote censorship.”
They also threw in another friendly reminder regarding the finances of the institution, noting that, “It is also important to remember that Gonzaga University is surrounded by Republican Legislative Districts – including the 4th, 6th, 7th and 9th. It is also located in the middle of the 5th Congressional District, which is represented by a Republican.”
“Many of the residents in these districts, including high school students who might be considering attending Gonzaga University, identify as conservative and want to hear the views of Mr. Shapiro. They also support free speech – regardless of political affiliation or beliefs.”
The letter concluded with a jab at the school’s own seeming policy hypocrisy, “Please do not allow Gonzaga University to become an island of isolated political views. Embrace your surroundings and respect the sentiments of your neighbors in eastern Washington — many of whom hold your institution in high regard and support your students.”
“We want to ensure Gonzaga University and all state higher education institutions in Washington are accepting of all speakers, visitors and guests.” Interestingly, at the time of their decision, the school cited protests as their reason for barring Shapiro from speaking there, which got an insightful response from Shapiro during an interview on KTTH.
“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. The idea is that a bunch of people don’t like me so they show up at my speeches and they yell at me.”
“So we can’t have me because we don’t want the people who are yelling at me. Which is a basic violation of First Amendment principles.”
“Gonzaga is a private school obviously, so that changes the math a little – they can do what they want. But by the same token, if you are worried about your student body being exposed to interesting ideas because people are going to protest, all this does is create an incentive for people to protest and make trouble.”
It remains to be seen if Gonzaga will change the decision and allow Shapiro to speak on campus. In the meantime, a suggestion has been made for him to speak nearby at a school that is assumed to be more welcoming to him:
@benshapiro , My office is next to Gonzaga. Idea, have you reached out to Whitworth University that is about 6 miles away from Gonzaga to see if you can do the event there if Gonzaga still won’t approve? They would welcome you coming and students from Gonzaga. #benshapirospokane
— Mark Holder (@markcometholder) December 23, 2018
Suggestion aside, a speaking engagement at a “liberal” campus was not only allowed, but a ticket “sell-out,” according to a press release about it. George Washington University students and others will see Shapiro speak on January 17.
Banned Conservative Speaker a Quick Sellout at “GW’s Liberal Campus”
Students Pay $11,000 to Sponsor Ben Shapiro, Just Banned at Gonzaga, U Conn, etc.
Public Interest Law Professor John Banzhaf
George Washington University Law Schoolhttps://t.co/UKvOobM03h pic.twitter.com/HlQDF10flH
— John Banzhaf (@ProfBanzhaf) December 23, 2018
Public Interest law professor at GWU John Banzhaf said that the tickets sold out within 10 minutes of becoming available. He added that, “This overwhelming interest in hearing Shapiro, an outpouring of interest rarely matched on this campus for even the most sought-after speakers and entertainers, provides a very strong argument for permitting students to at least hear what he has to say.”
So, regardless of what Gonzaga decides, there are campuses across the United States that still welcome free speech and speakers such as Shapiro to come on campus and provide their student body with a variety of ideas to consider. And they do this regardless, or perhaps in spite of, protests, which are also part and parcel of embracing free speech.
And that is not only in alignment with Gonzaga’s policy but should be embraced by higher institutions of learning. The letter from the legislators is a powerful reminder to the university of that very thing.
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