Last October, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro delivered a speech at the University of Southern California, despite attempts by the student government to suppress the event. Now, the student government may pass legislation that would prevent conservatives from being invited to the campus in the future.
Student government Senator Meagan Lane and Senate Aide Adenike Makinde justified the bylaw amendment by claiming that “Ben Shapiro’s campus presence incited undue violence on the day of his presentation.”
The proposed amendment points out that there is no process for “review or scrutiny” of speakers invited by student organizations.
“There is no precedent for administrative intervention for guests who have been approved for campus attendance, but pose a threat to individual students or recognized groups,” Lane and Makinde stated. “Ensuring clarity of approval procedures will allay fears that guests whose presence pose a detriment to a safe and cohesive campus climate may present their views without opposition.”
The amendment proposes speakers be subject to a Special Guest Approval if the event is ticketed, expected to have an audience over 100 people, if students’ safety is at risk, or if substantial security is required.
Three reasons are given for students petitioning speakers, including “persons who have accepted endorsements from hate organizations,” adding “groups designated by SPLC, for example.” The Southern Poverty Law Center, a left-leaning, self-described “hate group” watchdog that has repeatedly been criticized for unfairly labeling mainstream conservatives as extremists, recently settled a $3.375 million defamation settlement with Maajid Nawaz and his Quilliam Foundation for falsely labeling the foundation as “anti-Muslim extremists.”
The other two grounds for petitioning speakers are those who are “publicly supported members of hate organizations,” or those “on record as having publicly incited, supported, or explicitly encouraged violence or harassment.”
In a statement, Young Americans for Freedom, the organization that hosted Shapiro, said that the proposed amendment was introduced to give the student government the power “to restrict and/or revoke funding from student organizations who are bringing speakers that fail to meet the new subjective standards of certain USG officials and students who voice opposition.”
“This comes in response to the approval of security funding USC YAF had requested for our Ben Shapiro lecture after meeting the objective USG funding criteria,” YAF said.
YAF also said that they view the proposed legislation that would amend the student government bylaws as “a direct contradiction to the values of free speech as guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution and as a disservice to the USC community.”
“Such legislation denies to all students the access to intellectual diversity that is paramount to a well-rounded higher education,” the organization said.
Shapiro spoke at USC on October 4 to a sold-out room of more than 1,200 students, with hundreds more turned away, reports YAF.
Prior to the event, the Undergraduate Student Government considered cutting funding for the speech because YAF cancelled tickets for students they believed would disrupt the event, The Daily Wire reported.
USG Treasurer Hunter Quarteri stated, “USG funding has a very strict policy guideline in which any event that is put on by a registered student organization needs to be free of charge and open to all USC students to attend.”
USC YAF chairman Maxwell Brandon countered this point by claiming there was a “fair reason to believe that the specific individuals were planning on … getting tickets to disrupt the event or getting tickets to obstruct people from going to the event. We do have some record of very specific people and those people were removed.”
Despite the attempts to cut funding, the event went on as planned and the students held a protest outside the venue.