What's at stake
- The freedom of students, student organizations, and their guest speakers to speak freely on college campuses
- The freedom of college students to speak without fear of violence from protestors
Young America’s Foundation and CSULA Young Americans for Freedom, a registered student organization at California State University-Los Angeles reserved a theater in the Student Union to host a lecture by well-known conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. Shapiro planned to speak about trigger warnings, micro-aggressions, and “When diversity becomes a problem.” But when students and professors began to complain about the event and threaten violence against YAF, the university charged YAF over $600 in security fees because it deemed Shapiro’s speech “controversial.”
When YAF objected to the security fees, the university rescinded them, but then cancelled the event. In an email to YAF canceling the event, University President William Covino said it would be “best for our campus community” to cancel Shapiro’s speech, but he would schedule a “more inclusive event” where Shapiro could speak “as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity.”
YAF and Shapiro promised to go forward with the speech anyway, and eventually, on the morning of the event, the university said that it would allow Shapiro to speak. Hundreds of protestors flooded the university’s Student Union and physically blocked access to the theater in which Shapiro was scheduled to speak. Instead of moving the protestors to a safe location where they could express their message and not interfere with YAF’s event, President Covino ordered campus police not to interfere with the protestors. Many professors and faculty of the university assisted with organizing the protest, encouraged their students to attend the protest, participated in physically blocking the doors to the theater, and encouraged students to do the same. As a result, many students were unable to attend Shapiro’s speech, and Shapiro was forced to speak to a half-empty theater.
Our role in this case
Alliance Defending Freedom represents Young America’s Foundation, CSULA Young Americans for Freedom, Ben Shapiro, and three university students. We are defending the right of students to speak freely on campus without being subject to threats, physical violence, and obstruction from protestors. We seek to protect the true marketplace of ideas on campus where all voices are allowed to speak without interruption.