On Monday, perhaps sensing the backlash unleashed at Grand Canyon University, a Christian university, for denying Daily Wire Editor-In-Chief Ben Shapiro the chance to speak on their campus, Gonzaga University, a Jesuit school, rescinded their previous decision to bar Shapiro from speaking on campus, announcing that he would indeed be permitted to speak.
As KXLY reports, Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh responded to a University Event Policy appeal launched by the Gonzaga University College Republicans (GUCR), who had proposed bringing Shapiro to speak on the campus in spring 2019. That proposal was rejected by the Vice President of Student Development, who had consulted with colleagues including those in Campus Security and Public Safety. They decided that safety concerns regarding Shapiro’s speech overrode Shapiro’s right to speak, assuming his presence would trigger a hostile environment for some members of the university’s community.
In December, GUCR appealed the decision, which was reviewed in early January.
I appreciate that the students worked through the University's appeals process as set forth in the Events Policy to address issues regarding safety and campus security, as well as engaged in discussion about the focus of the event. As a comprehensive, faith-based and mission-centered university, we are committed to facilitating exposure to a broad range of intellectual ideas and debate, even as we simultaneously strive to uphold the values reflected in our mission statement. This process is reflective of our efforts to do both.
Some conditions have been set for Shapiro’s appearance; it will be held at the McCarthey Athletic Center (MAC), as GUCR nixed the smaller and less expensive Cataldo Hall location because of attendance capacity limitations.
The university also made sure to state, “As indicated in the Events Policy, the University’s decision to invite a given speaker in no way implies approval or endorsement of the views expressed by the speaker or any aspect of the event. The University nonetheless strives to encourage even difficult or controversial topics in the context of civil discourse. The authorization granted to the Gonzaga University College Republicans, to invite Mr. Shapiro to campus, is made with the understanding that his remarks while at Gonzaga will be respectful of the University, its members, and of the values reflected in our Mission Statement.”
On Friday, defending its decision to ban Shapiro, Grand Canyon University wrote:
We believe in many of the things that Ben Shapiro speaks about and stands for, including his support for ideals that grow out of traditional Judeo-Christian values and his belief in a free market economy. Our decision to cancel Shapiro’s speaking engagement is not a reflection of his ideologies or the values he represents, but rather a desire to focus on opportunities that bring people together. …
As a university, we encourage thoughtful discussions and rational dialogue in our classrooms about the issues affecting our society, and we encourage students to put greater emphasis on actions that produce positive change in our society. By working together, we have shown that real partnerships can create real programs that produce real results in our community. We hope it is a model that is emulated by others and builds strong communities where people can live and prosper in harmony, no matter their differences.
Based on the response we have received from some within the Grand Canyon community regarding the decision involving such high-profile speakers as Ben Shapiro, we have obviously disappointed and offended some of you. We know that if we had made a different decision, we would have disappointed and offended others within the same community. It was not our intent to disappoint or offend anyone. It was, rather, to use our position as a Christian university to bring unity to a community that sits amidst a country that is extremely divided and can’t seem to find a path forward toward unity.