Gonzaga president repeals decision regarding invitation of Ben Shapiro to campus
SPOKANE, Wash. — In response to University Event Policy appeal, Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh will permit political commentator, Ben Shapiro, to speak at the University.
In October 2018, the Gonzaga University College Republicans (GUCR), a student organization, submitted a proposal to bring Ben Shapiro, a political commentator, lawyer and writer, to speak at Gonzaga in Spring 2019. The proposal was reviewed by the Vice President for Student Development, in accordance with University Event Policy, and was ultimately rejected.
The Vice President of Student Development, after conferring with colleagues including those in Campus Security and Public Safety, rejected the request, citing safety concerns with the proposed venue, as well as concerns related to Shapiro’s appearance at some other institutions, such as verbal and physical altercations between protesting individuals and groups. These instances raised concerns that Shapiro’s presence on campus would contribute to the creation of a hostile environment for members of the community who may be targeted for discrimination and harassment.
GUCR appealed this decision to the President in a letter sent in December. The appeal was reviewed early January on the basis of safety and risk management as well as the University’s institutional context.
“I appreciate that the students worked through the University’s appeals process as set forth in the Events Policy to address issues regarding safety and campus security, as well as engaged in discussion about the focus of the event,” said McCulloh. “As a comprehensive, faith-based and mission-centered university, we are committed to facilitating exposure to a broad range of intellectual ideas and debate, even as we simultaneously strive to uphold the values reflected in our mission statement. This process is reflective of our efforts to do both.”
A final decision by President McCulloh was made, permitting GUCR to invite Shapiro to campus on the following conditions:
The GUCR will work with the Office of the Vice President for Student Development and/or her designee(s) to plan, promote, host and support the event in accordance with standard protocols for such events.
Given the interest in Mr. Shapiro’s appearance and our history with previous events involving high-profile speakers that required heightened security, the student leadership and I have collectively determined that the most appropriate venue for such an event would be the McCarthey Athletic Center (MAC), and the Gonzaga University College Republicans – informed about the expense involved – have specifically requested that venue. (The Cataldo Hall location was also considered and discussed, and though less expensive, the attendance capacity limitations make this a less attractive option.) The University maintains a set of protocols at the MAC for hosting public events that include law enforcement and crowd management services to assure the safety of the speaker and all attendees, as well as the campus and surrounding environment…
As indicated in the Events Policy, the University’s decision to invite a given speaker in no way implies approval or endorsement of the views expressed by the speaker or any aspect of the event. The University nonetheless strives to encourage even difficult or controversial topics in the context of civil discourse. The authorization granted to the Gonzaga University College Republicans, to invite Mr. Shapiro to campus, is made with the understanding that his remarks while at Gonzaga will be respectful of the University, its members, and of the values reflected in our Mission Statement.
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