An event featuring conservative author Ben Shapiro drew criticism from many students, as his appearance coincided with Black History Month. Some faculty members allegedly attempted to restrict access to the event by reserving seats that they did not intend to fill, thereby preventing others from attending the speech.
Ben Shapiro is a conservative commentator who has served as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire and editor-at-large of Breitbart News. In 2016, Shapiro spoke to students at numerous universities on a tour that was financially supported by the conservative student organization Young America’s Foundation (YAF). Shapiro’s tour had the intention of “invading campus ‘safe spaces,’” according to the Daily Wire’s press release.
Chrissy Nelson is the program assistant at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies at Marquette University. Nelson reportedly encouraged members of Marquette’s faculty to reserve seats at Shapiro’s event in order to take seats away from potential attendees.
Susannah Bartlow is a former Marquette University professor and director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. Bartlow was fired in 2015 for creating a mural honoring Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur.
Marquette University’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom invited conservative author Ben Shapiro to speak on February 8, 2017. In response, students representing the Marquette Empowerment Executive Board wrote a letter to University President Michael Lovell objecting to Shapiro’s appearance on the grounds that “he invalidates the experiences of their microaggressions” and that his remarks would take place during Black History Month, reports The College Fix. The letter also called on Lovell to “stand up for those who are marginalized” and included a list of questions that related to Shapiro’s stance on racial issues. Specifically, it alleged that “Ben Shapiro believes racism is no longer an issue for People of Color. How will you explain to Students of Color that the discrimination and microaggressions they experience daily is not an illusion?” and “Ben Shapiro questions the truth that every person is deserving of dignity and respect. How will you maintain the values of Marquette University while hateful rhetoric against certain students is being perpetuated at University-sanctioned events?” The letter was obtained by members of the student group Young Americans for Freedom, according to The Washington Times.
Members of Young Americans for Freedom also obtained screenshots of a Facebook post in which a member of the Marquette faculty, Chrissy Nelson, suggested that non-students reserve seats at Shapiro’s event through an Eventbrite page, thereby taking up space from potentially interested students, reports National Review. “I just got off the phone with one of the directors of diversity on campus,” Nelson, who is a program assistant at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies at Marquette, wrote. “The suggestion I received and will be promoting is to go to the mission week events that day, reserve a seat through Eventbrite as a student (to take a seat away from someone who actually would go) and not protest the day of.” In a different social media communication, Nelson encouraged Susannah Bartlow, a former Marquette professor and director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center to “Register as a student.” She continued, “Take a seat away from a student that would be interested in going.”
Young Americans for Freedom notified Marquette administrators of the screenshots they had obtained. In a statement, Brian Dorrington, Marquette’s senior director of university communication, wrote, “Our Student Affairs team has been working closely with the Young Americans for Freedom to assist them with their event. We have addressed this issue internally and will work to make sure that interested attendees have an opportunity to see Ben Shapiro on February 8.”
Shapiro delivered his address at Marquette University as scheduled on February 8, 2017
Prepared by Ian Prasad Philbrick ‘17
September 24, 2017