Syracuse student gov votes to block 'white supremacist' Ben Shapiro visit
"This is about the mental and physical harm that Ben Shapiro’s hateful, dehumanizing ideas incite against members of our community,” the resolution stated.
Syracuse University’s Student Association just passed a resolution , condemning a planned visit by political commentator Ben Shapiro this Fall.
Syracuse University’s Student Association passed a resolution condemning a planned visit by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro this fall. This resolution calls Shapiro a “white supremacist” among other labels, and requests “that whatever measures are necessary be taken to prevent this event from taking place.”
The resolution states that it intends to “set the precedent that hateful speakers/speakers who engage in hate speech are not welcome on the SU campus.” It insists that preventing Shapiro from speaking does not violate the First Amendment, stating that “hate speech can actually limit free speech,” because “the fear and lack of safety caused by hate speech does not allow for free debate, learning and open discourse.”
“This is about the mental and physical harm that Ben Shapiro’s hateful, dehumanizing ideas incite against members of our community,” the resolution continues.
Emblazoned with a “trigger warning” at the top of its document, alerting viewers of mentions of "racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, islamophobia, classism, and antisemitism," the resolution lists around 20 alleged offenses committed by Shapiro, scattered over 20 years of his career. These include “stating on multiple occasions that trans women are not real women” and “refusing to address people with respect by using their proper pronouns.”
The resolution has since been updated to cite Shapiro’s defense of President Donald Trump's referral to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus,” deeming the term racist.
The authors included a second update, adding that Syracuse University is “not legally required to comply” with President Trump’s recent executive order to defend free speech on college campuses, citing that it is a private college. They argued that private colleges only have to “comply with their stated institutional policies regarding free inquiry.”
“We do not follow the First Amendment...Well, we do not have to follow the First Amendment,” SA member Nyah Jones stated when expressing support for the resolution during an SA meeting held over Zoom, citing the fact that Syracuse is a private university. “As Members of the Student Association, it would be very ill-informed of us to ignore students crying out and saying they feel unsafe and to put our political beliefs and values over safety,” she added.
Syracuse University receives millions of dollars in federal research funding.
A report compiled by Campus Reform regarding how much money goes to both public and private colleges across the nation revealed that Syracuse received nearly $40 million in 2017.
“Ultimately, constitutional principles and federal law do not bend to the wishes of naive, ideologically possessed students,” responded Syracuse College Republicans Chair Rody Conway in an email to Campus Reform.
Other SA meeting attendees who supported the resolution accused Shapiro of inciting violence, blaming his own views for the violent measures that protesters often take when opposing his lectures.
“I’m sure many of you guys have looked up the YouTube videos of Ben Shapiro at Boston University and at Berkeley, how he incited literal riots and violence on campus,” Syracuse student Morgan Webster argued.
“How can we even invite somebody that incites this sort of violence? Aside from their conservative views, how are we literally inviting somebody who’s caused, incited, like riots when we have this type of climate on campus? It’s just like literally unconceivable [sic],” said Webster.
College Republicans member Alex Wilgocki rebuked these claims, stating that Syracuse is “supposed to be a campus that allows free speech and free thought.” “If people don’t wanna be antagonized, they can simply not go to the event,” Wilgocki said. “He (Ben Shapiro) is not going to be the speaker at commencement.”
The resolution to block the Shapiro visit was originally written and proposed by a ticket of presidential and vice-presidential candidates for the Student Association. They won their election just days before the resolution passed. As previously reported by Campus Reform, the university’s College Republicans chapter says that these very same candidates tried to court votes and support from the chapter’s members in a recent meeting, promising to support their efforts to host Shapiro on campus.
Campus Reform obtained a recording from this meeting, where SA Vice President-Elect Ryan Golden stated that he “voted in favor” of allowing Shapiro on campus when he served on the SA Finance Board two years ago.
“I don’t have to agree with it to believe that people on this campus do agree with him and that they maybe would want to hear him speak,” Golden responded when asked by a chapter member whether his ticket would support Shapiro’s visit. “Personally, as someone who disagrees with Ben Shapiro, I would go to hear him speak, because I don’t feel that living in a vacuum of being in a bubble helps me grow.”
The College Republicans chapter later responded to Golden’s change of heart, stating that the resolution not only contradicts the initial promise but “it also suggests that over the two years since voting in favor of bringing Shapiro to campus, the candidate never heard any of the statements by Shapiro that are now used as grounds to prevent the event.”
Both Golden and SA President-Elect Justine Hastings deny claims they lied to the College Republicans.
“While the bill may have passed, the fight is far from over,” Conway told Campus Reform.
He assured that the Student Association can not do much to prevent Shapiro from speaking at this point, stating that the College Republicans chapter has already been approved for funding from the university.
“While it can feel good to pontificate about the evils of your ideological opponents, it does not change reality.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Justine_Brooke