Tufts students say Ben Shapiro's views put them in 'danger'
Liberal students at Tufts University are pressuring the student government to deny funding for the College Republicans to host an event featuring Ben Shapiro.
The funding request was scheduled for discussion by the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate on October 29, but was tabled at the request of the Tufts College Republicans President George Behrakis, who told The Tufts Daily that the club need time to prepare a response following “a swift mobilization against us by leftist student groups.”
"It’s just [that Shapiro’s] opinions directly target my existence or the existence of people I care about."
Tufts United for Immigrant Justice (UIJ) and Tufts Student Action (TSA) had created a Facebook event called “Pack the Room: Vote No to Ben Shapiro” in hopes of persuading the student senators, but cancelled the demonstration after the vote was postponed.
“Ben Shapiro's history of spreading fake news and fear-mongering, particularly around issues of immigration, has put many of our communities in tangible amounts of danger,” a description of the shelved protest states.
“If Ben Shapiro is invited to campus, he will be given a legitimate platform to continue spreading these lies and will threaten the undocumented-friendly environment we've spent the past five years fighting for,” the description continues before calling on readers to attend and voice their opposition to the event.
Some Tufts students posted on the wall of the Facebook event, saying that Shapiro should be able to come to the university and speak.
“As a lifelong Democrat and liberal who opposes 98% of what Ben Shapiro says please let him come and speak,” one commenter wrote, but others complained that Shapiro’s presence on campus would psychologically harm students.
Behrakis told Campus Reform that the College Republicans “think [Shapiro] occupies a unique space on the right: he holds pretty standard conservative beliefs, but is also critical of the president when he feels it’s necessary,” adding that “his outspoken style is also something that I think makes him an engaging speaker for young conservatives across the country.”
Still, Behrakis said he is unsure whether the funding request will ultimately pass.
“I’m hoping that they do [approve the funding], because as an officially recognized group on campus, we ought to have the same access to funding that other groups get,” Behrakis explained. “On the other hand, I understand that some senators simply don’t care about our club and will use their own ideological biases to try and prevent us from getting funding.”
According to Behrakis, recognized student organizations at Tufts have access to $5,000 per school year to help cover speaker fees, and left-leaning groups “such as the Tufts Democrats and Students for Justice in Palestine” have gotten funding from the TCU in the past.
Opponents of the Shapiro speech, however, insist that his viewpoints are at odds with the TCU Senate’s commitment to inclusivity.
“It’s not about not wanting to hear opposing opinions, or opposing thoughts, or anything like that. It’s just [that Shapiro’s] opinions directly target my existence or the existence of people I care about,” UIJ member Ana Manriquez told the Daily. “That’s not even dialogue any more. That’s you telling me that I don’t have a right to be here whether it’s as a student or as a human being. There’s no way you can create productive dialogue in that situation.”
Even though the “Pack the Room” event was cancelled, the organizers insist that they are “prepared and ready to move forward with our resistance not only to this issue but all that challenge the safety and livelihood of our communities,” boasting that their threatened demonstration succeeded in convincing the TCU Senate to include them “in the discussions happening behind the scenes.”
A vote on the funding is expected within the next few weeks, according to Behrakis.
Campus Reform contacted the organizers of the protest, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @asabes10