Students sue UMN for banishing Ben Shapiro to St. Paul

Two conservative student organizations and author Ben Shapiro are suing the University of Minnesota for allegedly “banishing [a] conservative event to [an] inadequate venue.”

The lawsuit was announced Tuesday by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an advocacy organization that will represent Shapiro, Young America’s Foundation (YAF), and Students for a Conservative Voice (SCV) in federal court.

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According to ADF’s press release, the complaint was filed after university officials “suppressed and censored conservative viewpoints using its ‘Large Scale Events Policy’” in late February by relegating the event to a distant venue with a limited capacity.

“The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the policy, which officials used to restrict, relocate, and downsize an academic lecture delivered by Shapiro” and hosted by the conservative student organizations, ADF explains. 

“SCV students requested use of Willey Hall, a 1,056-person facility located on the Minneapolis campus near public transportation,” the statement continues. “However, despite the facility’s availability when requested, university officials gave the student group the run-around, arbitrarily capped the number of attendees to 500 persons, and banished the event to UMN’s St. Paul campus.”

ADF argues that the move represents an act of “discrimination” against the students, claiming that one university official said that Shapiro’s speech “would be ‘controversial and a security concern.’”

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The 33-page lawsuit condemns the school’s free speech policy, arguing that its implementation results in infringement on students’ First Amendment rights.

“UM has a Large Scale Events Policy and practice that it uses to censor, restrict, and inhibit unpopular student speech, thus unconstitutionally infringing upon students’ First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights (the ‘Speech Suppression Policy’),” the lawsuit explains.

Likewise, ADF reiterated that the school “arbitrarily determined that the event represented a significant security concern due to the content and viewpoint to be expressed by Shapiro.”

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In a statement released Tuesday, YAF also publicly condemned the university, arguing that its policies are “depriving its student body of an intellectually diverse learning environment.”

“Administrators’ discriminatory treatment of conservatives—quarantining Shapiro and a limited number of students who wished to hear his ideas to a remote area of the St. Paul Campus—was a result of administrators’ disagreement with the viewpoint of Shapiro’s speech,” ADF spokesman Spencer Brown asserted.

University of Minnesota spokesperson Chuck Tombarge told Campus Reform that the school is “aware of the complaint filed in U.S. District Court” and “will review it carefully to determine our next steps.”

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