U Students Call on Administration to Cancel Ben Shapiro Event

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University of Utah President David Pershing speaks to protesters outside of his office about Ben Shapiro coming to speak at the school.
Emily Anderson

Upwards of 50 students spent approximately four hours outside of University of Utah President David Pershing’s office Tuesday demanding he cancel a speaking engagement for Ben Shapiro, a right-wing political figure, that is currently slated for Sept. 27.

The protest was organized by the U’s chapter of Chicanx Student Movement of Aztlán (MEChA), a leftist student group that seeks to make higher education more accessible to marginalized populations and, according to the national movement’s website, “strive for a society free of imperialism, racism, sexism and homophobia.” Other student groups, including the U’s Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Black Student-Union, joined MEChA.

Holding signs that read things like, “Y’all can’t do anything, or y’all won’t do anything?” protesters demanded Pershing come out of his office to address their concerns — which he did for just under 10 minutes.

“You’ve heard what I have written about our commitment to diversity,” Pershing said. “We believe that. We are strongly supportive of that.”

U spokesperson Chris Nelson said he wants students to realize that the U didn’t invite Shapiro, he is being brought in by a student group. To the U, it’s a matter of free speech.

“The policy of the university is that a fully-registered student group has the right, just like you do, to invite speakers … The jurisdiction we have is safety,” Pershing explained, as he was met with jeers.

One student, who asked not to be identified, responded sarcastically, “Normalizing hate speech makes me feel so safe.”

Another student told Pershing they were scared to go to class. He replied, “That’s bad.”

Erin Mariah Hight, one of the students protesting the event, challenged the U’s policy.

“If every student in this room threatened to pull their records from the university right now and you lost all of that tuition money, we know you would find a way to make it work,” Hight said. “Institutions find loopholes, and when they don’t find them, they make them. So make one.”

The student group holding the event is the U’s chapter of Young America’s Foundation, a conservative organization that describes themselves as “inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise and traditional values.”

The Facebook page of the public event says Shapiro will “take on leftist myths of white privilege, trigger warnings, microaggressions and diversity.” As of Wednesday morning, 738 people had RSVPed as going, while 711 were interested. Meanwhile, two pages organizing a counter-protest show that 432 plan on rallying and 1,644 are interested.

The former editor-at-large of Breitbart News and founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire has been met with backlash when he has spoken at other universities in the past.

California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), President William Covino attempted to cancel an event at the school, but backpedaled after being threatened with multiple lawsuits. Student protesters surrounded the building where Shapiro was speaking, not allowing attendees inside. Some students snuck in through the back doors and Shapiro spoke anyway. Afterward, protesters barricaded event-goers in until Shapiro left through a secret exit. Young America’s Foundation and Shapiro later filed a lawsuit against CSULA, saying the school violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Shapiro was banned from holding an event at DePaul University, a private institution, after violence erupted at a speaking engagement for Milo Yiannopoulos, a political commentator commonly associated with the alt-right.

He is scheduled to speak at the University of California, Berkeley, on Thursday. Officials expect a mass protest in response to the event and have arranged for an increased police presence. U officials and police officers plan to attend in an effort to develop their own security plan.

“We’re going to California to assess that situation and how they handle it, and the movement of the crowd, and bring back some of that here,” said U Police Deputy Chief Rick McLenon. “We will have every officer in our department on duty that day, and we have also been in contact with Salt Lake City and some outside resources to possibly assist with security for participants in the event. When I say participants, that’s both sides — so unbiased.”

As students remained outside of Pershing’s office asking for more time to speak with him, the president left the building with three police escorts. Protesters then focused their attention on talking to Vice President of Student Affairs Barb Snyder. According to U officials, Snyder was not in her office that day.

“University of Utah administration, it is a very interesting strategy to just walk away,” said one protester, who asked not to be identified, into a megaphone. “Please, give me advice on how to walk away from my identity.”

At one point during the sit-in, Associated Students of the University of Utah President Zach Berger and Vice President of University Relations Zoe Kozlowski sat down with protesters to listen to their concerns.

When the group realized they were not going to get face time with Snyder, they migrated to a Presidential Search Committee public hearing to receive input on Pershing’s replacement. The president announced earlier this year that he planned to retire after a highly publicized scandal between the school, University of Utah Health and the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

As they were followed by police, the protesters filed into the law building’s Moot Courtroom carrying posters decrying Pershing’s lack of action in regard to the Shapiro event. Four of the students stood, each touching on how they would like to see a president that spends more time listening to minority populations at the U.

“Something I would like to see from administration, as well as the president’s office, is the initiative to address issues that affect marginalized students without the marginalized students having to come to the office and having to come and confront administration to make them address these issues,” said one student.

After the hearing, Patricia Jones, a member of the search committee and Utah Board of Regents, spoke personally with the protesters asking for further suggestions. Protesters pointed out the lack of diversity on the Presidential Search Committee. Of 20 members, only four are people of color. Geoffrey Landward, an assistant commissioner with the Utah System of Higher Education who is helping organize the hiring process, promised students that there would be a more diverse group included when interviewing candidates. Protesters said one of their main concerns, however, is what they view as the current administration’s lack of accountability.

In 2016, the U released a list of 13 initiatives the school was pursuing to improve the racial climate on campus. One student protester said they want to see further protection of marginalized populations at the U, holding a poster that read, “Don’t talk about the 13 initiatives.”

MEChA member Juan Salazar said, “The safety of the students should be considered before legal policies, because we pay tuition and that goes to the university.”

e.anderson@dailyutahchronicle.com

@emilyreanderson

Emily Anderson
Emily is the news editor at the Daily Utah Chronicle. She studies journalism and the Middle East. Since 2015, Emily has covered stories from nearly every beat at the Chronicle. She is also a contributor at SLUG Magazine, and has interned with RadioWest and KUER News. Emily is currently an intern at The Salt Lake Tribune.

69 COMMENTS

    • Ben Shapiro turns people into aliens? Or iguanas? He is one of the more polite, if pointed, speakers out there. I don’t always agree with him; I ALWAYS learn from him. And I have never yet left his speeches a non-human. I am baffled by the assertion that a Jew (who tops the list of receivers of anti-Semitic hate speech, to boot) is considered a Nazi. As Ben would say, wut?!

    • How can students effectively fight against ideas they disagree with, when they rely on hearsay and rumor instead of listening to those ideas from the source? Sure, you can congratulate each other but you cannot hope to convince anyone on the other side to join you if you refuse to hear what they think and their reasons for it.

      Rap music and many other kinds of modern music and movies and TV shows are very offensive. They glorify rape and degrade women. Why no protests against that? Because, when all is said and done, the ONLY ideas that are seen as so offensive that they must be silenced and censored are… political ideas that are not far left enough. All else is okay, apparently.

      If you want to change the world, do something. Volunteer, donate, tutor, help. Protests only focus more attention on the cause you are trying to fight–and on yourself, which is apparently a major motivator these days.

  1. Lame, at least come up with a better premise for your protest. If Richard Spencer (I think that is the white supremacist dudes name) was the guest YAF invited, I could get behind your platforms claims. Especially the rasicim, homophobia, and sexism comments (didn’t want to Google imperialism and see if that fit him). But if Ben says things so harmful you actually panic before/during/at school, then you need to provide objective evidence. Or we are reduced to assuming things because “I” think them to be true.

  2. Wow… liberal cancer finally spread to good patriotic states. I used to live in Utah, it is one of final fronteer. The best states to raise kids. So sad…

    • As someone who has lived in Utah my entire life, I can tell you this is a terrible place to raise children, and it’s because of people like you who treat inclusion like a “cancer”. Utah’s backward, conservative culture is precisely why we have such a high homeless youth population and such high teen suicide rates.

  3. Weird, at the Utah football game I watched on the amazing big screen scoreboard that “at the U you can be U”….. Guess you can only be “U” if it fits the narrative.

  4. I can’t believe this cancer has spread to Utah. Ben Shapiro isn’t even offensive or controversial. He speaks to the facts and doesn’t offer unsupported opinions. He cites all of his research. All of these snowflakes need to go to Canada like they said they would… or better yet, Mexico. They seem to think Mexicans are great, so they can go melt there.

  5. I graduated from the U with degrees in Political Science and Economics and I enjoyed my time there largely due to the diversity of thought. I am a white LDS male and certainly I was exposed to ideas I didn’t agree with. I was introduced to Marxist professors. You listen politely and you learn what you can. It is absurd and outrageous to me that Ben Shapiro, an anti-fascist, anti-alt right, who himself is a target of alt-right hate, and a constant advocate of non-violent political speech is being reacted to in this way. It is ridiculous. The hysteria in this country, and those fanning it to destroy the system, to destroy 1st Amendment protections, should give everyone who cares about our civil liberties real concern. To all these protesting Shapiro I say: Grow up and listen. You might come away with some insights and ideas that will make you a more educated person.

    • As you stated, it’s Ben Shapiro’s first amendment right to speak but so it is this students’ first amendment right to speak out against him. We both agree these students pay tuition and they have a right to say where that money goes to. Furthermore is their right to say they don’t want going towards some who has said some very homophobic and xenophobe statements. The comments left on this article validates when these protestors have stated. They use their first amendment right and are told to go back to Mexico. Ironic isn’t you guys want them to stuck it up but are quick to tell them to go to Mexico because they aren’t agreeing with you.

      • As President Pershing was careful to point out to the professors, Ben Shapiro was not invited onto the campus. Student tuition is not going toward this event at all, it is organized and funded privately. Furthermore, I would challenge you to point out any homophobic or xenophobic statements that Mr. Shapiro has made in the past. He is a brilliant orator, though I often disagree with him. I am looking forward to this privately funded event.

        • They event is sponsored by College Republicans and the Young American Foundation…..so it sounds like you are misinformed on many levels…My bet is you have no idea who Ben Shapiro is or what he says…I listened to him many times and most of people who start out misinformed like you end up agreeing with him because once you listen ….actually listen…you are shocked to no end that he actually believes what he believes

          • I will grant you most people are shocked. They are shocked that he actually is anti trump but objective about it. They are shocked that he anti abortion. They are shocked that he is actually not alt right. They are shocked that he is the number one recipient of anti-semetic hate. They are shocked that he holds the most basic conservative values such as being anti-abortion, pro supply-side economics, pro second amendment. They are shocked that he is against identity politics which is divisive.

            If you intend to imply that most people are shocked about how “hateful” ben shaprio is, I have a hard time believing you have really listened to him many times. In fact I guarantee you haven’t seen his debate with Cenk Uygur. I guarantee you didn’t listen to his speech at Berkeley. I guarantee you haven’t listened to his radio show which repeatedly condemns the alt-right.

    • Me too. I’m also a white and LDS. I graduated in Political Science from the U and was exposed to all kinds of opinions and creeds with which I disagreed. However, I listened and learned. I wish I were close enought to the U to come and watch Ben Shapiro.

  6. Let me preface by saying I write this as a life long democrat and liberal in the Truest sense.It’s time we stop calling them anti-fascists and start calling them for what they are: a militant group pushing to overthrow the American system and replace it with a communist totalitarian system.

    Limiting free speech, removing history (no matter how disgraceful it may be) and attempting to change or control the language are all straight from the playbooks of the very despots of history which they claim to oppose.

    Any true liberal who supports free speech, and has an iota of pride in America should call these thugs for what they are and oppose them at every opportunity. The fact that the narrative of the left has pushed the definition of being a liberal to somehow mean you support an ideology which history shows to be evil is just as disgusting as the way they brand anyone who believes in basic conservative principles as ‘nazis’. When they do either, it removes the legitimacy of their claims and alienates those whose support they seek to garner.

    Over the past year, I’ve found myself as a liberal having more in common with those of the tea party than those who claim to rally for the ‘liberal’ cause. Between their equation of anyone who disagrees with them to nazis, their seeming ‘victimhood olympics’ and their continued aplogism towards the largest offender of human rights for women and the LGBT – Radical Islam- The radical left is doing nothing to help the liberal cause and everything to solidify support for Trump

    • There is a HUGE difference between ‘the left’, and liberals. There is also a HUGE difference between ‘the right’ and conservatives. We’ve allowed the very small minority fringe extremes on both ends to speak for the rest of us, and it’s just not true! They make money off of this, pure and simple. When liberals and conservatives realize they’re not that far away on most things, and that ‘the left’ and ‘the right’ are really just braying ends of the same animal, maybe we can start towards real discussion and progress as a country.

  7. Anyone who is secure in who they are and stands firm in their convictions won’t be offended when they hear something that doesn’t line up with their own beliefs.

    • That may be true if the color of your skin is white in this country – and one is heterosexual and male. However, for the students of color – or those who are trans, or LGBTQIA – one cannot just “stand firm in their convictions” when people like Ben Shapiro question their authenticity as human beings. How can a trans student be “secure” with “who they are” when Shapiro blatantly claims there is no such thing as trans people. We are not talking about superficial preferences – Shapiro is openly discrediting entire identities. It is a privilege to be able to be “secure” with who one is in the US, and that privilege is most concentrated at the intersection of white, male, and heterosexual.

      • I’m hispanic and I feel secure in this great country. I stand for my convictions and I don’t get offended for comments against my race. What Ben had said about trans people is that they could do wetever they want, but that doesn’t mean they’re the sex they claim to be, true.

        • I’m glad you feel secure with who you are, Carlos. But you as an individual cannot speak for all minorities. Furthermore, trans people don’t “claim” to be a sex. They are the sex they communicate and identity as. Why does Shapiro’s believe he has the right to determine someone’s true sex? Who gave him that power?

          • Because Ben Shapiro quotes science…talk about a reversal where 10 years ago the left accused us conservatives as being science deniers…technically they still do in respects to climate change

        • IKR? He says you can do whatever the heck you want. Just don’t try and dictate my behavior. Talk about another reversal where 10 years all we could hear the left say was get government out of my pants (as if we were trying to)…

  8. I remember when G. Gordon Liddy was invited to speak at the U in 1988 (I think). I don’t remember by whom or by what group he was invited, but I was amazed that he was paid such a huge ($10K?) fee. The only thing that made him famous was his criminal conviction for his involvement in the Watergate scandal. I was required to attend for a political science class I was taking, but I recognized that it was the right of the group to invite him and it was the right of anyone who didn’t like Liddy’s actions or politics to not attend (Except for those required to attend for a grade.) But protesting a speaker’s appearance is like wanting to take your ball and go home because your precious feelings have been hurt. Except it isn’t your ball. And get over your hurt feelings. If you are always going to be offended by Ben Shapiro, or anyone whose views are contrary to yours, then you will go through life constantly being offended. And as a result you will be miserable.

  9. “If every student in this room threatened to pull their records from the university right now and you lost all of that tuition money, we know you would find a way to make it work,” Hight said. “Institutions find loopholes, and when they don’t find them, they make them. So make one.”

    And the proper and correct response is: “You’re right. We’ll pull your files for you. While we’re doing that, clean out your dorm rooms. Pick up your records at the Registrar’s Office and leave the campus by no later than noon tomorrow. Good-bye. Good luck in your future educational endeavours … somewhere else. Good day.”

    • No. The proper response is to let them leave on their own. If you push them out you are dropping to the same level as protesters themselves.

      • Agreed, but they really needed to hear they don’t have the right to tell another student association they don’t like they are not allowed to exist because of who they are and what they believe….

  10. I liked reading your article Emily. Good work. I think you can still improve on stuff like this, but I believe you (your article) provided solid context. Thank you for sharing the information; based on the comments it looks like their are quite a few people engaged in the topic, and like I said, nice job.

  11. Practice the tolerance you preach. Left, right or center everyone has the right to free speech and college campuses aren’t an exception. Peaceful protesting is fine, attempting to silence a speaker because you do not agree with them is Fascism.

    • So we should be tolerant of Nazis? Should we be tolerant of those advocating genocide? I know, I know, “Ben is advocating for any of that!” But he does demean people who are trans, he is intolerant of their identities. Tolerance of intolerance leads to more hate, it often leads to genocide. So yes, many of us “preach” tolerance. But we are not tolerant of intolerance. It’s a complicated issue: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance

      • The problem has become that anyone who disagrees with you is automatically labeled a Nazi, just as you have labeled Shapiro a Nazi. Yet I bet you cannot find a single instance of Ben Shapiro advocating genocide nor any evidence of Ben Shapiro’s membership in a Nazi group. Your only goal is to silence and legitimize violence against the man because you’re too childish to bear opinions that differ from your own. Grow up, and stop perpetuating the fascism you claim fight.

  12. Why can’t leftists just invite thier own intellectuals to give a lecture? We may possibly find some common ground to bounce ideas and debate in a decent manner.

    Oh wait, Stalin and Hitler are both dead. And Obama is vacationing with Oprah. Tough luck liberals.

    • The event is free to the public. The Facebook event says Young Americans for Freedom will hand out tickets, and to follow their social media pages or attend chapter meetings to learn how to obtain them. It will be held at the Social and Behavioral Science Building in the auditorium.

  13. I really how he gets his time to speak. We students are at a point in our lives where our ideas should be challenged and adding a conservative voice might help do so.

  14. If Shapiro’s comments, or anyone else’s for that matter, are so abhorrent then let it stand on that. Clearly he has some compelling arguments or he wouldn’t have an audience. The same can be said for his liberal counterparts. We really need to stop assuming that any opinion different from our own automatically makes the holder of that opinion evil. Both sides, liberal and conservative, have gone off the rails. Everyone take a nap, regroup, and start having some conversations that will advance our society instead of turning it into a psychological, and sometimes, actual war ground.

  15. Absolutely unbelievable how liberals try and silence any view they don’t agree with with VIOLENCE in the name of PEACE. My generation is so anti-intellectual and brainwashed it’s scary.

  16. I feel like these protesters are just trying to create soundbytes. I don’t even understand what they’re trying to communicate when they say things like “Please, give me advice on how to walk away from my identity.”

    And trying to get the university to “create a loophole” to get an event cancelled because it may hurt a fraction of 1% of the student population’s feelings seems very drastic, considering that Shapiro doesn’t preach any of the ideologies they say he does.

    • Like seriously…he addressed this in his Berkeley speech. They paint any conservative argument as an attack on identity, but it’s not! Absolutely ridiculous!

  17. I’m a typical left leaning college student, a Latina and first generation immigrant. I say let the man speak. Freedom of speech is a what makes America great. We also have the freedom to not listen and boycott his event. Better yet, if you disagree with Mr. Shapiro like I do, attend the event, be civilized and listen to his speech. Not because you agree, but so that you can take note of his contentions and formulate your own opinions and counter arguments. How can you criticize or attack a point of view if you do not know what it is? Also, by embodying the intelligent and critical students we are, and attending this event in a rational and polite way we will defeat the false narrative that those who oppose Mr. Shapiro’s views are intolerant, uneducated people incapable of engaging in educated and civilized discussion. To go in there shouting insults and being disruptive will only paint us as incoherent and disorganized which will allow people to immediately discredit and dismiss us. I will go to represent myself and those like me. I do not agree with Mr. Shapiro, and I am not afraid to say so. I will also act in the dignified and respectful manner in which I want to be treated, even if I am not, because that is who I am.

    • It will defeat the false narrative…well sorry….most of the country is highly intolerant. We already have LOADS of evidence to support it, so it’s not a false narrative. Unless you meant there is a narrative that *anyone* who opposes Ben Shapiro is intolerant.

      Ben Shapiro does Q&A at every speech. He has a rule that anyone who disagrees with him go to the front of the line. He has many civilized discussions. So we recognize not everyone who disagrees with him is intolerant. In many cases people simply haven’t heard a conservative argument so they can’t really debate him.

      He often expresses appreciation for the civility in the Q&A, so he appreciates you going and being civil, as does everyone involved. Unlike those on the left that *are* intolerant, we are largely looking for civil discourse which has been absent from society at large.

    • Well said – I am reminded of this quote from Judge Learned Hand.

      “The First Amendment … presupposes that right conclusions are more likely to be gathered out of a multitude of tongues, than through any kind of authoritative selection. To many this is, and will always be, folly; but we have staked upon it our all.”

  18. You feel unsafe going to class? Stop it. Stop with the empty rhetoric. It’s like crying for your service animal, which is really just your mangy dog. You’re abusing the system, and people with actual, real concerns can’t be heard because some 18yr old baby just can’t handle a differing opinion. This is embarrassing.

    Here’s an idea. Instead of screaming hate speech, which means absolutely nothing, how about you go, respectfully listen, ask respectful questions, and then form your opinions based on actual, definable responses, instead of just shouting someone down you don’t agree with? College is the time to get out of your sheltered little world view, go listen to contrary opinions, and use that to either realize how ridiculous your position is, or use it to strengthen your own position.

    • So a trans person should just be respectful to Shapiro, even though Shapiro openly disregards their identity? These aren’t “contrary opinions,” people are standing up against someone who is using his platform to advance a hateful rhetoric against a specific group of people.

  19. I don’t agree with everything that Ben Shapiro says, but if you are so concerned about being offended by him then just don’t go to the event. Plain and simple. No one is forcing you to listen to what he has to say.

  20. Disappointed to see people who preach tolerance and love actively and occasionally violently try to silence anyone who disagrees with them.

  21. Everyone in America is entitled to free speech, everyone in America is entitled to freedom of thought. The moment we shut people down for thinking differently is the moment America becomes Russia or Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy or Castro’s Cuba where people are shot, tortured, and imprisoned for speaking or thinking contrary to sanctioned thought. I am absolutely against hate speech, but I am also against anyone or any group being forced to regurgitate pablem in order to not offend people who are looking to be offended.

    America is a great country, but it will cease to be so the moment we all turn into mindless drones incapable of thinking for ourselves. I imagine like myself most American’s are unwilling to participate in hate, inequality, and prejudice. What took place outside the Presidents office at the U appeared to be more along the lines of harassment and bullying because the protesting group was unable to get their way just because another group invited a speaker that the protesting group doesn’t like. Why is what the group protesting wants more important than what is valued by other student groups on campus who also pay to attend the University of Utah? Freedom of speech doesn’t apply to only one group, it’s no less important for this group or any individual or group who happens to have opposing opinions or beliefs, it would be a great tragedy for Americans to lose one of this countries greatest gifts.

    This is a University, its whole purpose is to expose its students to the real world and not coddle them, how are students supposed to be prepared to meet the challenges in the real world if instead of learning to objectively evaluate the issues they encounter. I have lived my whole life exposed to things I didn’t like or agree with but that’s where living in this country is great, I have the right to disagree; I don’t, however, have the right to force my beliefs or what I want down other people’s throats.

    A rational approach by the protesting group would have been met with greater acceptance and a willingness by the President to hear all of their concerns. From what I have read in the article by Emily Anderson the protest outside the president’s office was oppressive, disruptive and inappropriate. I am all for protest, but what occurred feels more like a tantrum by one group demanding that another group be subjugated in order for the protesters to be placated.
    This, of course, is just my opinion but I felt I needed to express it.

  22. I am as left-wing as they come, but the notion of college students trying to censor free speech is incredibly stupid and contrary to everything an institution of higher education stands for.

    Kids, grow up for Christ sake! Protest all you want. That is your right. But don’t try to prevent others from speaking. That is completely unAmerican.

  23. It should be telling when the “protesters” call a 150lb Jewish guy who wears a yarmulke, a white supremacist….tells you where their brain is…I blame the public education system.

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