Prager vows U of Wyoming speech will go on despite protest
Students at the University of Wyoming are organizing a protest against an upcoming speech by conservative commentator Dennis Prager, saying his views are too “dangerous” for campus.
A Facebook page advertising the “Protest Against Bigot Dennis Prager” complains that “the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming RSO Funding Board and Senate recently awarded several thousands of dollars to Turning Point USA's UW chapter to bring a racist, homophobic, xenophobic, red-baiting, anti-academic, climate denying, rape apologist to campus.”
"Ultimately, it is our goal to produce graduates who are critical thinkers and active listeners."
“If you are able, please consider attending, in peaceful protest, to help express just how unwelcome he is and how important it is to use our finite resources to meet students' needs, rather than stroke the egos and line the pockets of dangerous public figures like Dennis Prager,” the description adds, encouraging students to also attend a “poster writing session” one day before Prager’s November 9 speech.
One post in the discussion section originally included a contention that Mr. Prager was “anti-semitic,” but that claim has since been removed after students pointed out to protesters that Prager is in fact of Jewish descent.
In spite of the planned protest, Prager himself has vowed that the event “will take place as planned.”
“I look forward to speaking at the University of Wyoming—and doing so in the same respectful and rational manner I have always spoken,” Prager said in a press release Monday. “I also look forward to answering every question and challenge students wish to pose. I cannot promise that I will change the mind of every student who comes; I can, however, promise that most students will wonder why anyone at their university called me a bigot and a hater.”
The event is being hosted by the University of Wyoming’s Turning Point USA chapter, and the group’s president, Jessica Leach, told Campus Reform that the chapter “decided as a group to bring Mr. Prager to campus because [they] thought that he would be able to provide insight.”
“I feel as though protesters are using inflammatory buzzwords in order to create hype about an otherwise civil, intelligent, and good-natured man,” Leach said. “I think the students want to protest because they see large scale protests on other campuses, and wish to be a part of a similar movement.
“I would welcome the protesters into the event and to ask Dennis questions during our Q+A session,” she added, saying she hopes that “they remain civil so as not to engage in a ‘heckler's veto.’”
University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols addressed the controversy in her weekly “Monday Message” to campus this week, encouraging students to “consider that the principles of free speech and campus inclusiveness should not be mutually exclusive” and reminding them that “the robust exchange of ideas” is at the core of any university’s mission.
“Inclusiveness is about widening the circle of voices, including more perspectives from different backgrounds, all free to speak, free to disagree, free to discuss and debate,” she wrote. “Ultimately, it is our goal to produce graduates who are critical thinkers and active listeners, able to explore all sides of an argument before drawing conclusions. Then, we hope that students/citizens feel free to speak out and express their own views.”
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