Students at the University of New Mexico (UNM) are protesting two conservative groups getting funding from the Associated Students of UNM to host speeches by Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro and Christina Hoff Sommers.
The Young Americans for Freedom and UNM College Republicans had each obtained $5,000 to cover half the cost of hosting their respective speakers, Shapiro and Sommers, prompting ASUNM Sen. Hallie Brown to protest the use of student funding for the speeches.
Brown attacked both speakers. She said of Shapiro:
Ben Shapiro promotes exclusivity, specifically devaluing the experience for people of color and blatantly ignoring the importance of diversity of thought. I would hate to think ASUNM would support funding someone who’s so aggressively against what makes UNM one of the best places to be, that being our diversity. UNM’s motto is “each of us defines all of us,” and I think fully funding these speakers would not do justice to our diverse campus culture.
Brown apparently is completely ignorant of Shapiro’s long-standing support of diversity of thought. Here are several quotes that illustrate his position:
Freedom of speech and thought matters, especially when it is speech and thought with which we disagree. The moment the majority decides to destroy people for engaging in thought it dislikes, thought crime becomes a reality.
Racial diversity doesn’t mean anything. Decency means something. Diversity isn’t a bad thing, but it isn’t a good thing unless the people who are racially diverse are decent. Diversity isn’t a bad thing unless the people who are racially diverse are indecent. It’s not a difficult thing; diversity isn’t our strength. Decency is our strength.
What tears us apart is when you immediately assume, when people immediately assume, that just cause my skin color is different than yours, or my religion is different than yours, I must have an agenda that is adversarial to yours, and I want to destroy you. I don’t. What I want is a country where we can all be free, where you don’t have to care what I think and I don’t have to care about what you think because we’re all leaving each other alone, and all we care about is the maintenance of that freedom that was guaranteed to us by those evil white Founding Fathers who constructed the greatest system in the history of humankind.”
Brown attacked Sommers, bloviating:
While I do believe that these speakers shouldn’t be barred from speaking on our campus, I do think ASUNM should consider the implications of fully funding these speakers. In light of the Department of Justice investigation and agreements regarding the sexual response on campus, it is problematic to bring a speaker like Christina Hoff Sommers to our institution. She is an avid victim-blamer, she actively participates in rape culture, and that is something our campus is trying to combat.
Brown quoted from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on sexual assault where Sommers was quoted saying, “I mean, if a woman was unconscious or incapacitated, then every civilized person would call it rape. But what about sex while inebriated? Few people would say that intoxicated sex alone constitutes rape.”
Brown did not include Sommers’ entire comment, which was this:
No one interviewed was asked if they had been raped or sexually assaulted. Instead of such straightforward questions, the CDC determined whether the responses indicated sexual violation. Now, 61.5% of the women the CDC projected as rape victims in 2010 experienced what the CDC called “alcohol and drug facilitated penetration.” Now, what does that mean? I mean, if a woman was unconscious or incapacitated, then every civilized person would call it rape. But what about sex while inebriated? Few people would say that intoxicated sex alone constitutes rape. Indeed, a non-trivial percentage of all customary sexual intimacy, including marital sex, probably falls under that definition.
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) President Sierra Ludington echoed Brown, saying, “While we have no interest in denying freedom of speech, we just feel like this money should not be coming from our student fees.”
"Freedom of speech and thought matters, especially when it is speech and thought with which we disagree."
But Senator Francine Briones said that ASUNM could not simply reject funding requests from the organizations for the speakers because the students didn’t like the speakers’ views, citing the Supreme Court case Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth. SCOTUS ultimately ruled “the First Amendment permits a public university to charge its students an activity fee used to fund a program to facilitate extracurricular student speech, provided that the program is viewpoint neutral.”
Briones explained the university could impose mandatory fees if they were allocated “in a viewpoint-neutral fashion.”
Chairwoman of UNM College Republicans Marina Herrera responded, “We would like to bring to light that we have been told students don’t support the opinions of these speakers, but that is one of the reasons we want to bring these speakers. As our active president Chaouki Abdallah said, ‘Our University can’t survive by saying we are going to start censoring because it gets tighter and tighter until eventually we are not having conversations about real topics.’ Because these speakers are so controversial, that’s why we want to bring them.”