On Nov. 30, 2017 at an emergency senate meeting, the Student Government Association voted 28 to 2 to rescind $7,080 allocated to Young Americans for Freedom from the Special Projects and Initiatives Fund to partially fund bringing conservative speaker Ben Shapiro to Concordia College. The funding had already been granted a week earlier by a 12 to 8 vote after being presented to the student senate by a representative from Concordia’s YAF chapter. Some of what went on during the emergency senate meeting is known, but much more is not known. To anyone who has been wondering what has been going on, this article is for you. Each paragraph below will start with a simple question that I believe many of you want answered, followed by an in-depth explanation of the answer to said question.
Why did SGA rescind the funding? After voting to partially fund bringing Ben Shapiro to campus (YAF initially requested somewhere around $23,000 from SPIF but was given $7,080 instead) many students at Concordia expressed their concerns for the mental and physical safety of LGBTQ+ students if said event took place. In order to promote further discussion on the decision SGA made to partially fund the event, individuals on the executive team of SGA called for an emergency senate meeting to introduce a motion to rescind funding for this event. The key words here are “in order to promote further discussion.” The executive team emphasized this was in no way a political move on their part, but a move to more accurately represent the entire student body’s voices by promoting further discussion on the matter, since some students felt like their voices weren’t being heard.
What happened at the emergency senate meeting? During the emergency senate meeting, many students expressed fear for their physical and mental safety due to Ben Shapiro’s stance on transgender people if he were to be brought to campus to speak. During the senate meeting itself, it was made clear that representatives in SGA wanted to work with YAF to bring a conservative speaker to campus, just not Ben Shapiro due to how people were reacting so badly to the mere thought of having him on campus. As the president of the YAF chapter at Concordia, I was sitting in the middle of Barry Auditorium, prepared to articulate the points I wanted to make about how and why he should be funded. But after hearing these things from SGA and the LGBTQ+ community, I decided to concede. I realized that while I believed the fear for the LGBTQ+ community’s physical and mental safety was misplaced, there was no arguing against it with rationalism. Arguing against irrationalism with rationalism is irrational. Having also experienced anxiety myself for the first time this past semester, I empathized with those who feared his presence on campus. Taking their concerns to heart, I publicly stated in the meeting that I would be open to working with SGA to fund a different, less controversial speaker for next semester.
Is Ben Shapiro still coming to Concordia? The answer to this question is a resounding no. Not to break anyone’s heart, but Ben Shapiro’s speaking schedule is fully booked for the spring of 2018 and planning an event this big takes 8-12 months. Also, to reiterate what I said in the joint YAF and SGA statement, I am wholeheartedly committed to bringing a different speaker to campus for the spring 2018 semester, seeing as this is my last semester here at Concordia. Many will be disappointed about this, and many others relieved. But I believe this is the right course of action to take.
Who is coming to campus to speak if Ben Shapiro is not? Having recently received funding from SGA through the SPIF fund, I will be inviting former Republican congressman Rick Santorum to speak on campus by the end of the spring semester. Seeing as this will put a spotlight on Concordia’s campus, key stakeholders have offered their services to make this event as successful as possible. The college has been very helpful in coordinating this event with our YAF chapter, and we look forward to making it a reality in the coming months.
Having someone speak on campus to educate the student body on conservatism and what it is like to work on Capitol Hill will not only help embolden those conservative students that have felt marginalized inside and outside of classrooms for their viewpoints, but also embolden other students to intelligently form counterarguments to the ideas they heard, allowing them to become more responsibly engaged in the world in their many conversations to follow.