Gonzaga University has dropped its ban on conservative commentator Ben Shapiro speaking on campus.
The Gonzaga University College Republicans applied to bring Shapiro to the campus in the spring but were first rejected. College President Thayne McCulloh said Monday that after the group appealed the rejection, the ban on Shapiro was lifted.
“I appreciate that the students worked through the University’s appeals process as set forth in the Events Policy to address issues regarding safety and campus security, as well as engaged in discussion about the focus of the event,” McCulloh said.
“As a comprehensive, faith-based and mission-centered university, we are committed to facilitating exposure to a broad range of intellectual ideas and debate, even as we simultaneously strive to uphold the values reflected in our mission statement. This process is reflective of our efforts to do both.”
The school had at first denied the group permission to have Shapiro as a speaker.
“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,” wrote Judith Biggs Garbuio, the school’s vice president of student development, according to the Spokesman-Review.
“Gonzaga University must prevent our campus from becoming a hostile environment for employees and students,” she wrote.
“Gonzaga University is committed to the human dignity of every individual,” Garbuio said. “This is the core of our mission based on the teachings of Christ Jesus, and the foundations of the Society of Jesus. We stand in solidarity with vulnerable members of our community who may be targeted for discrimination, ridicule, or harassment by others.”
Campus Reform quoted McCulloh as saying that the initial denial reflected “the concern that Mr. Shapiro’s appearance could contribute to the creation of a hostile environment, particularly for those members of our community who may be targeted for discrimination, ridicule, or harassment by others.”
McCulloh said that there were three conditions to having Shapiro appear: “College Republicans will work with the Vice President for Student Development, require that the event be ticketed to help with the security concerns, and the understanding that Shapiro’s remarks while at Gonzaga will be respectful of the University, its members, and of the values reflected in our mission statement,” according to Campus Reform. The group also agreed to change the venue for the appearance.
Shapiro was recently denied permission to speak at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona.
In a statement explaining its decision, the university spoke about unity.
“Based on the response we have received from some within the Grand Canyon community regarding the decision involving such high-profile speakers as Ben Shapiro, we have obviously disappointed and offended some of you. We know that if we had made a different decision, we would have disappointed and offended others within the same community. It was not our intent to disappoint or offend anyone. It was, rather, to use our position as a Christian university to bring unity to a community that sits amidst a country that is extremely divided and can’t seem to find a path forward toward unity,” the statement said.
The group that wanted Shapiro to speak did not buy that argument.
“By caving to an unseen mob and ignoring the popularity of Shapiro among its student body, Grand Canyon University just played itself and deserves whatever negative response this brings,” Young America’s Foundation spokesman Spencer Brown said response, according to Fox News.
“GCU has abandoned the sentiment of its own proclaimed values, deluded itself into acting like the liberal campuses it claims to differ from, and blindly accepted the Left’s ludicrous argument that Shapiro’s presence somehow damages students, campuses, or debate,” he said.
In a news release Tuesday evening, GCU announced that it would be “extending an invitation” to Shapiro to speak on campus in the spring, saying that it will work with the GCU YAF chapter students instead of the YAF national office.
UPDATE, Feb. 7, 2019: A Twitter account that appears to be associated with Young America’s Foundation spokesman Spencer Brown tweeted Thursday afternoon that YAF and Grand Canyon University had arrived at a deal that would bring Ben Shapiro to campus.
BREAKING: @GCU signed @YAF’s contract and we’re moving forward to bring @benshapiro to campus with @GCUYAF1776 through our exclusive Fred Allen Lecture Series. Ticketing and other details to follow. pic.twitter.com/b42teF2FPY
— Spencer Brown (@itsSpencerBrown) February 7, 2019
Local media reported that Shapiro’s speech was scheduled for Apr. 10.
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