Baylor facilitates 'reparative conversations' ahead of Ben Shapiro speech

YAF alleges that the meeting is a result of pressure from the LGBT group on the university surrounding an upcoming speech by Ben Shapiro hosted by YAF, but the LGBT group claims it called the meeting due to other ongoing conflicts between the group

Officials at Baylor University are intervening in a conflict between Baylor’s chapter of the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) and an unofficial campus LGBT rights group, hosting a mediation between the two.

Present at the meeting will be an officer from the university’s equity office, although the university says her presence is in relation to her mediation qualifications, rather than her role as an equity investigator.

Officials from Baylor University in Texas have gotten involved in an ongoing conflict between one conservative student group and one progressive student group on campus. In response to ongoing disagreement between the two organizations, the school has “invited” the groups to a mediation to be facilitated by university employees.

After a conflict between the Baylor chapter of Young America’s Foundation (YAF) and an unofficial campus LGBT rights organization called Gamma Alpha Upsilon (GAY), the university is facilitating a “reparative conversation” to be co-mediated by an officer from the university’s equity office.

Baylor Vice President of Marketing and Communications Jason Cook told Campus Reform that there is absolutely “no investigation by Baylor’s Equity Office into Baylor YAF or GAY” and that while the school’s manager of equity and civil rights, Brittney Wardlaw, is set to be present, it is only because she is “certified in conducting reparative conversations among conflicting groups,” and her role in the meeting will allegedly not be a function of her duties within Baylor’s equity office.

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“Baylor is attempting to facilitate a conversation with between [sic] the two student groups in an effort to increase understanding and advance the conversation in a collegial manner,” Cook said.

But, according to The Baylor Judge,  the group is being forced into behind-the-scenes mediation with GAY, which notes that Wardlaw’s official job description notes that she “conducts investigations for claims related to discrimination and harassment around protected characteristics.”

The Baylor Judge alleged that GAY tore down flyers for a speech on social issues by conservative commentator Matt Walsh earlier this year. The Baylor YAF chapter plans on hosting conservative author Ben Shapiro in November.

The Baylor Judge said that a source with GAY told the outlet that university administrators secretly met with GAY, telling the group that while it would not become an official campus group, the school president sided with GAY over YAF. However, Cook told Campus Reform that “President [Linda] Livingstone did not approach nor meet with GAY,” claiming that Shapiro’s upcoming appearance “is scheduled as planned.”

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“There have been no ‘secret’ meetings,” Cook said, adding that Livingstone has not been in contact with the group but that there have indeed been recent meetings between university officials and members of GAY, one being to inform the group that it would not be approved as an official student group, and another with some members “who had expressed campus safety concerns” that were “unrelated to YAF.”

Cook noted that the university also reached out in hopes of meeting with both GAY and YAF separately before bringing them together for the joint meeting. GAY responded and met with Student Life, but no such meeting has occurred with YAF because “YAF has since not responded to Student Life to confirm a meeting time.”

GAY Vice President Anna Conner also denied that the President had reached out to her group, In a statement issued to The Washington Examiner

“The closest we’ve had to contact with her is from the campus-wide email she sent that stated Baylor’s policies on homosexuality would not change,” Connor said.

“It is...expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching,” Baylor, a Christian university, states on its website.

“Our club does not disagree with Ben Shapiro coming to campus, nor did we disagree with Matt Walsh last semester,” Connor added, admitting that one member did tear down fliers advertising the Walsh event, but that said member was acting independently of the organization. “We have even made official statements in other articles and on our social media saying we don’t oppose him.”

Connor says that that GAY requested that the university mediate a meeting between the two groups for an “entirely different matter,” claiming that the YAF chapter “has been publicly stating that our club is violent” and alleging that GAY’s members are deliberately threatening and sabotaging YAF members and meetings. 

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GAY requested that the university facilitate a mediation because of this situation and the university agreed.

Connor insists that GAY did not request the presence of Wardlaw, nor is her presence necessary for the meeting to take place. 

”The mediators are specially trained to deal with these issues and remain neutral in the conversation. One of the mediators chosen, we had no involvement in this, happens to be from Baylor’s equity office. Mediators are also subject to change if one group disagrees or feels a disadvantage and they could have made that known before going to the press with this misinformation.”

”To be clear, Baylor is not investigating YAF or their event, nor have we requested it,” Connor added. “The meeting is also not mandatory and YAF has the right to not participate no matter how much I think we need this meeting. YAF also has the ability to request changes if they so choose.”

Cook told Campus Reform that the university’s approach to this issue is the result of “a campus-wide initiative related to civil discourse that began this fall,” and that the school seeks to start an initiative “to bring together many groups who may have opposing viewpoints on an issue.”

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