Christian University Students Bar Shapiro From Speaking UPDATE: University President Responds

Ben Shapiro, host of his online political podcast The Ben Shapiro Show, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) sponsored by the American Conservative Union held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Oxon Hill.
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On Wednesday, at Whitworth University, a private Christian university in Spokane, Washington, the Whitworth student government, known as the Associated Students of Whitworth University (ASWU) held a vote on whether the university should allow the university’s Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter to invite Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro to speak.


With the vote tied, nine to nine, AWSU president Tersa Almaw broke the tie, voting against Shapiro speaking on campus. Representatives from the Whitworth YAF had tried to convince the assembly, answering questions from assembly senators, but to no avail.

As The Whitworthian reported, “After nearly 90 minutes of back and forth between those present, Boppell senator Sarah Haman made a motion to vote on the issue. David Martin, Duvall senator, seconded the motion. That vote resulted in a tie, which Almaw preceded to break by voting against Shapiro’s proposed lecture on campus.”

Director of Student Activities Jason Chapman commented, “These issues are not simple and there was not a clear majority. I think this is reflective of today’s political climate. At the end of the day, I think ASWU stuck to the platform they ran on last spring of transparency and unity.”

Earlier in the week, Lauren Sagvold, the Chair of the YAF chapter, told the The Whitworthian, “The conservative voice is underrepresented through events on campus, which does harm to the intellectual open-mindedness that Whitworth fosters … On Tuesday, March 5, I received an email from Jason Chapman, the Director of Student Activities saying that our proposal to bring conservative speaker, Ben Shapiro, has been denied. About forty-five minutes later, he sent me another message stating that ‘after further discussions, we have decided it would in everyone's best interests to send this request to the ASWU Assembly for a vote.’”

Chelsea Shearer, ASWU’s financial vice president, issued a statement, “The email that originally got sent to YAF from Jason was a miscommunication and was corrected quickly.”


After Almaw was elected president of ASWU, The Whitworthian reported, “As president, Almaw also hopes to integrate intersectionality because it is very important to her.” The Whitworthian continued:

During the campaign, balancing work, school, campaigning and time to be alone was a challenge, Almaw said. Meeting up with new people, encouraging them to vote, and being surrounded by people for long periods was overwhelming at times, she said. It was exciting to meet new people, however, and taught her to push herself out of her comfort zone and genuinely talk to people. She learned to interact with people more and reach out to others, she said.

The website for Whitworth University, which was founded in 1890 by George Whitworth, states, “The catalog from 1890 defined the vision for Whitworth College: ‘It is intended to give both sexes a thorough course of education...ever directing them in pursuit of that learning and culture of mind and heart that make the finished scholar … While it is denominational, it does not aim to be sectarian, opening its doors to all lovers of truth and learning.’”


In an updat on Thursday, YAF spokesman Spencer Brown reported that after the vote was taken, Whitworth President Beck Taylor emailed the university community, “Club speaker approval is a student government responsibility ... For many in our community, ASWU’s decision will be seen as another sign of the decline of civil discourse and freedom of expression on college campuses.” Brown adds that Taylor concluded that banning Shapiro “was a very difficult decision that attempted to weigh two competing goods at Whitworth – the value of intellectual openness and the value of creating safe and inclusive spaces for learning and discovery.”

Brown added that people hoping to change the decision can contact Taylor by email via [email protected] or Twitter via @BeckTaylor.

Brown concluded, "How does President Taylor expect students to learn or discover if speakers such as Shapiro are outright banned from his campus under the cowardly guise of creating 'inclusive' or 'safe' spaces? No students would be forced to attend Shapiro’s YAF lecture, and Shapiro’s presence does not threaten the safety of anyone. The reality is that safe spaces are antithetical to learning, a truth President Taylor apparently ignores."

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