Ironic, isn’t it, that a university committed to “understanding of and respect for diversity” would attempt to shut down an event on . . . diversity.
Well, that is exactly what happened at California State University-Los Angeles (CSULA).
Young America’s Foundation (YAF) and CSULA Young Americans for Freedom, a registered student organization on campus, invited conservative commentator Ben Shapiro to give a presentation on “When Diversity Becomes a Problem” at their free speech event. They promoted the event on social media but soon began receiving angry, threatening comments from both students and CSULA faculty calling the group “white supremacist” and comparing them to Hitler. One professor even went as far as challenging the students to a fight.
As a result, the university charged YAF over $600 in security fees because it deemed the event “controversial.” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sent a letter on behalf of YAF to CSULA demanding that they rescind the unconstitutional security fees. In response, the university rescinded the fees, but cancelled the event because it disagreed with the viewpoint of the speaker. University President William Covino said it was “best for our campus community” that the event be cancelled and combined with a “more inclusive event” that he would schedule another time so that it could include “speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity.”
YAF and Shapiro planned to go ahead with the event as scheduled. President Covino said that although he disagrees with the viewpoint of Shapiro, he would allow him to speak and “make every effort to ensure a climate of safety and security.”
In the hours prior to the event, hundreds of protestors, including CSULA faculty, began flooding the Student Union where the event was being held. Linked arm-in-arm, they blocked access to the entrances of the event. Instead of moving the protestors to a safe location where they could express their message, President Covino ordered campus police not to interfere. As a result, only half of the attendees made it inside the event.
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.
Universities are supposed to be a marketplace of ideas where all voices are heard. But, more and more universities are becoming not places of diverse thought and speech, but places that shut down viewpoints that don’t align with a higher political agenda.
We applaud the courage of YAF to fight for their right to free speech, and ultimately, the rights of all university students.