Deborah Porter, Foreign Policy Contributor
Update: Ben Shapiro is speaking 0.7 miles off campus in order to not be arrested by the DePaul security team.
DePaul University is actively attempting to shut down Young America Foundation’s conservative event, for the mere fact that they are refusing to back down on their freedom of speech rights. Ben Shapiro, a conservative speaker banned from speaking at DePaul in August, plans to go ahead and speak with fellow conservative Christina Sommers despite the ban. This takes place only months after banning Milo Yiannopoulos, another conservative speaker whose “inflammatory” rhetoric resulted in protestors taking over the event and left campus security costing $1000 unable to stop them.
What has become of our universities? Instead of politely debating those we disagree with, students now persist in denying fundamental rights to their fellow learners. Students in universities should be learning to “agree to disagree” rather than require “safe spaces.” Look, I’m not here to be negative about safe spaces. As an engineering major on a liberal campus, there are times where politics are not the subject and not appropriate. There are times when students need to get away from politics and the world and reflect and learn. However, it starts getting ridiculous when they can’t even handle viewing some posters and simply not attending events. You have a choice to attend these events – so if you know it’s going to upset you, don’t attend. Freedom is amazing, and you have the freedom to stay at home.
Getting back on subject, is banning Ben Shapiro logical? This is the guy who has recently reported the truth on how he feels about Bannon, the alt-right head of Breitbart, and has publically said that Yiannopoulos, the other banned speaker, is absolutely alt-right and while still friends, they frequently engage in public “insult-fighting.” He called out Trump on many different occasions, saying that while Trump may not fulfill the “racist” and “white-supremacist” status himself, he definitely reaches out to these supporters. Ben Shapiro does not write and speak to anger people and make them upset – he argues for freedom for all. He’s still friends with those he disagrees with because he believes in the freedom to do so. Sadly, DePaul University seems to disagree with even that. Should we abandon friends with different views?
I would challenge DePaul’s idea to restrict freedom of speech and still have a workable campus. As a scientist, we’re taught through the history of science as being the time when crazy ideas were true, and frequently not acceptable to people of the time, because it was so unthinkable. Over time, people learned to challenge scientific ideas and re-evaluate their concepts of truth. This lead to the development of good things, like the scientific method and the idea that Earth revolved around the Sun. It’s always good to challenge your beliefs; scientifically, historically, and philosophically, because it’s always possible that you’re wrong, or that there’s a better idea out there. Universities will never advance if they pursue closed-minded suppression of events. DePaul is no different – restricting the ability of conservatives to openly discuss their beliefs will eventually result in no progress at the university.
I doubt that if YAF or the College Republicans had invited a minority speaker, DePaul University would dare to restrict that speaker (notice that Christina Sommers is still speaking). Yet, conservative ideas are conservative ideas, whether spoken from a dark or light skinned individual. The liberal students who took over the College Republican event will continue to do so on whatever they can get away with. Condoleezza Rice, an African American woman and also former Secretary of State, was the subject of protests at Rutgers University, and eventually declined to speak in order to keep the peace. DePaul does itself no favors by picking and choosing which conservative speakers may get protested, and which ones are worthwhile to hear from. Instead, they limit the ability of their students to grow and learn through the banning of speakers with interesting, thought-provoking things to say.
This is a call to liberals and conservatives alike – don’t let your campuses be overrun by those who don’t want to let you think and reason for yourself. Fight the system, be open-minded to new ideas, willing to engage in friendly discussion with those with different opinions. You may convince a few people that you’re right, and you may learn a few things yourself. For now, let’s hope that DePaul University allows Ben Shapiro on campus, lest they be shamed into the only university that banned a pleasant, good-natured conservative from speaking on campus.
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