The president of California State University Los Angeles (CSULA) cancelled a Thursday speech by conservative pundit and Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro, citing the need for the “free exchange of ideas.”
Shapiro was set to speak before the campus chapter of Young America’s Foundation on “When Diversity Becomes a Problem.” Shapiro’s event caused consternation among some on campus, with liberal professors and students promising to protest the event.
CSULA president William Covino announced Monday that the event would not be allowed to continue without opposing speakers: “After careful consideration, I have decided that it will be best for our campus community if we reschedule Ben Shapiro’s appearance for a later date, so that we can arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity. Such an event will better represent our university’s dedication to the free exchange of ideas and the value of considering multiple viewpoints.”Elia powers reports at Inside Higher Ed:
But Young America’s Foundation, the parent group of the campus organization that wanted to bring Shapiro to CSULA, said it was “sickened” by the decision. “This is a clear violation of student rights,” its press release said, adding that several liberal speakers, such as Cornel West and Angela Davis, appeared on campus recently or were scheduled to do so with no requirement that their events include opposing views. “Only conservatives are subject to liberal administrators’ obstructionist tactics to promote progressivism at the expense of any modicum of ideological diversity. This is a clear-cut case study in that disturbing pattern.”
Peter Bonilla, director of the Individual Rights Defense Program at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said that requiring Shapiro appear in a forum or debate alongside speakers with differing views raises constitutional concerns.
“It seems pretty clearly to be an unconstitutional action by the university,” he said. “What the university can’t do is what it’s done, which is apparently compel the YAF chapter to include a diverse range of speakers, including speakers presumably who would be opposed to Ben Shapiro’s viewpoint, as a condition of having him on campus as their guest.”
“There’s a very well-established doctrine of free association that gives students and student organizations the right to associate and not to associate with certain views and certain messages,” Bonilla said. “Just like students can espouse what they want, they’re free to not associate with who they don’t want or to not provide a platform to those with messages counter to their own.”
The American Association of University Professors also warns against requiring speakers with opposing views at an event in the name of balance. "Campus groups should not be compelled to invite someone they do not want to hear as a condition for inviting someone they do want to hear," reads a letter from the organization about outside speakers and academic freedom. "It would be improper for a university administration to require the College Republicans to invite Barack Obama in order to 'balance' Dick Cheney …. A different student group can invite Obama, or the university can create its own event and add it to the campus schedule."