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Student-activists at the University of Pittsburgh are outraged that Daily Wire host Michael Knowles is scheduled to appear on campus and take part in a debate on transgenderism next month.
The students called on the school officials to protect “LGBTQIA+ individuals” on campus from “language” that “directly threatens violence against trans individuals.” The Student Government Board also released a statement condemning Knowles’ planned appearance, along with other conservative events, as “transphobic hate.”
Dylan Mitchell, president of the College Republicans at Pitt, the group hosting Knowles on April 18, told The Daily Wire that he is concerned the university will give in to leftist pressure and cancel the event.
“It’s incredibly disappointing to see so many students at the University of Pittsburgh who are so averse to the concept of free speech. As college conservatives, we know there will always be backlash to our beliefs because we go against the tide of the majority, but that’s why it’s so important that we stand up for ourselves and refuse to back down,” Mitchell said.
Knowles was harshly criticized after multiple news outlets falsely reported that he called to eradicate transgender people during a recent speech, leading some people to accuse Knowles of calling for “genocide.” The Daily Beast edited its original headline, which claimed Knowles called for the “transgender community” to be eradicated, to reflect that the podcast host called for eradicating “transgenderism,” not people who identify as transgender. Rolling Stone made a similar update.
Despite Knowles clarifying that he was not calling for harm to be done to transgender people, a student at Pitt started a petition last week, telling the university that allowing people like Knowles to speak on campus is “unacceptable and against the values of this University.”
Former college swimmer Riley Gaines and Daily Wire Senior Editor Cabot Phillips, who are speaking to the Turning Point USA chapter at Pitt in the coming weeks, were also mentioned in the petition, which referred to them as “transphobes.” The petition has received more than 9,000 signatures.
So far, Pitt has not canceled any event hosted by the campus Republicans or Turning Point USA. The university released a statement last week reaffirming the rights of campus groups to host “provocative” speakers. The administration’s statement, however, agreed with leftist students that “these events are toxic and hurtful for many people in our University community” and doubled down on its “unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.”
“Some members of our community have expressed concerns about Michael Knowles’ viewpoints, including Knowles’ recent statements about transgender people,” the statement said. “The University affirms its deep commitment to and support of all Pitt community members including our trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming community members.”
The Pitt College Republicans are standing their ground and still plan on hosting Knowles despite the backlash.
“We are not afraid,” Mitchell said. “We will stand up and represent those who are afraid of the backlash, and we’ll continue to stand up until conservatism is accepted on campus and nobody has to fear sharing their beliefs. Petition or not, we will certainly not be canceling this event, and we will be hosting more conservative voices in the future.”