By Bill Korach www.thereportcard.org
Freedom of expression is in such short supply on America’s college campuses, that conservative speaker’s very ideas are considered harmful.
On Wednesday evening this week, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro came to the University of Connecticut to give a talk focused on promoting conservative values, rebutting common liberal arguments, and directly engaging with and answering attendees’ questions. In spite of efforts by university administrators to discourage students from going to the event, including labeling Shapiro a threat to students’ mental health, hundreds of people actually had to be turned away from a packed auditorium.
Although one is tempted to laugh at campus craziness, campus efforts to stifle free speech strike at the very heart of the purpose of a university. Students attend to learn things, new ideas, or ideas that can be in conflict with their own perceptions and biases. If the policy of the University of Connecticut is to discourage ideas they dislike, what is their purpose? The thought process of UCONN officials as reported in Townhall is revealing.
Earlier this month, UConn administrators were none too pleased upon learning about Shapiro’s planned speech. In an email to the student body, Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Joelle Murchison wrote the following [emphasis mine]:
“I wanted to make you aware of a situation we have recently learned about. There has been a request received for Ben Shapiro to come to campus as the guest of the College Republicans. […] We understand that even the thought of an individual coming to campus with the views that Mr. Shapiro expresses can be concerning and even hurtful and that’s why we wanted to make you aware as soon as we were informed.”
Murchison went on to advise that UConn students make full use of the school’s wide range of student resources in preparation for Shapiro’s talk, including their official office for counseling and mental health services (CMHS), whose official websiteopenly promotes “social justice” psychology:
“Counseling & Mental Health Services is committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment for the UConn community. We celebrate and honor the uniqueness and diversity of all individuals. We promote social justice and inclusivity throughout UConn and the broader global community through our clinical, outreach, and training services.”
Given statements like this from supposed mental health care professionals at the university, it’s not too surprising that the school’s staff would be so frightened at the prospect of hosting a speaker who regularly criticizes Black Lives Matter, feminism, and the emerging transgender orthodoxy.
However, at least in the case of last night’s speech, no serious disruptions or violenceprevented Shapiro from addressing his audience and engaging in an extended question and answer session with them. Spencer Brown, spokesman for the Young America’s Foundation, which helped organize the event, described Shapiro’s appearance as a success, telling Townhall that “hundreds of students packed the sold-out lecture hall to hear Ben articulate conservative ideas. In typical YAF lecture fashion, Ben took questions from those in the audience who disagreed with him, and the peaceful free and open exchange of ideas that followed proves the value of YAF’s nationwide campus lecture program.”
Things did not go so smoothly at UConn just this past November when a planned talk there by conservative commentator Lucian Wintrich was disrupted by an attendee attempting to steal his speech notes. This was followed by a physical confrontationbetween the two that ultimately resulted in the attendee, who works at a local community college, being charged with larceny and disorderly conduct.