Shenanigans in Illinois. 2: DePaul University bans yet another speaker

There are two places where you’re likely to find details about speakers being censored, banned, or interrupted on U.S. campuses. One is right-wing websites, because, of course, it’s often conservative speakers who are subject to this treatment, with the “left-wing” Pecksniffs acting as censors. (But see below: the Right can be censorious as well, but doesn’t threaten violence so much.) The other site is FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which, like the ACLU used to be, is a nonpartisan group dedicated to preserving civil liberties.

That’s why you won’t find articles about DePaul University’s banning of a conservative speaker in leftish papers like the Washington Post or New York Times. They just don’t care—not until it ignites into a big conflagration. By and large, liberal papers have ignored the accelerating erosion of civil liberties on American campuses, although the NYT‘s piece on FIRE last week was an exception.

So, though I could cite the same facts from The National Review, The Daily Wire, or even Fox News, people would discount the sources as “biased”. I thus call on FIRE to report the facts in a piece called “DePaul continues to rail against viewpoint diversity, bans Ben Shapiro.

It’s a measure of my ignorance that I didn’t know who Ben Shapiro was (I’ve just discovered that I mentioned him once in a post), but Wikipedia says he’s a 32 year old “American conservative political commentator, nationally syndicated columnist, author, radio talk show host, and attorney.” It’s not like he’s some rube, either: “Shapiro graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 2004 and graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2007.” From 2012 to this year he was also editor of the conservative site Breitbart. He’s also an Orthodox Jew, a supporter of Israel, and an opponent of the BDS movement, which would further enrage students of the Regressive Left.

Shapiro is a popular speaker on campuses, invited by conservative groups, but his speeches have been interrupted by the Censorious Left (read the story of the dustup at Cal State University at Los Angeles.) And now he’s been banned from speaking at DePaul University here in Chicago for fear of disruption. FIRE gives the details:

In an article for The Daily Wire, the vice chairman for DePaul University’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, John Minster, revealed that DePaul’s administrators are once again acting as censors, banning another speaker from campus. This time, the school is forcing his group to disinvite conservative commentator Ben Shapiro from speaking on campus.

In an email to the group’s executive board, DePaul Vice President of Facilities Operations Bob Janis stated security concerns were the reason for not allowing the editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire to speak at the university. Shapiro addressed these concerns last night on The Kelly File, saying:

“What I love most about this situation is that they don’t even say that what I’m saying is so terrible. Instead, what they say is that because I’ve been met with violence at other campuses, this raises security concerns. So in other words, they can’t keep their own students from assaulting people . . . basically, we now have the rioters’ veto.”

As I reported in mid-May, DePaul students also interrupted and finally terminated a speech by Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos—a particularly nasty example of histrionics that you can see here. I immediately wrote to DePau’s President, Reverend Dennis H. Holtschneider (DePaul’s a nominally Catholic school), and quoted a letter he wrote to the University, affirming his support for free speech and apologizing to the group who had invited Yiannopoulos, the College Republicans. It may not be a coincidence that Holtschneider resigned as President soon thereafter.

According to FIRE, the College Republicans again invited Yiannopoulos to DePaul in July, only to have the University deny that request on grounds of safety. This time is worse, because Shapiro was already invited, and the University is forcing the Young Americans for Freedom to rescind his invitation. I see that as censorship.

What message does this send? It’s clear: make enough noise, and threaten enough disruption, and you can get any speaker you don’t like banned or disinvited. Some Muslim groups have already learned this lesson, and now it’s filtered down to the Regressive Left.

It is the job of college campuses, especially those like DePaul with a written commitment to free speech and viewpoint diversity, to ensure that speakers can deliver their views without unwanted interruption, violence, or disturbances. To disinvite someone because they raise “security concerns” is to invite others to threaten security. Shame on DePaul—for the third time. As FIRE notes,

DePaul has had a long history of hostility towards free speech, including discriminating against a drug policy reform group, shutting down an affirmative action protest, suspending a professor for his expression without a hearing, and forbidding a student group fromprotesting Professor Ward Churchill’s visit to campus. In 2013, DePaul “earned” a spot on FIRE’s annual 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech list when it punished a student for revealing the names of those who vandalized his student group’s campus display.

FIRE will continue to monitor the situation at DePaul and will update Torch readers as new information arises. To learn more about trends in campus disinvitations, visit FIRE’s Disinvitation Database.

Do have a look at that database! It’s 13 pages long with 308 disinvited speakers listed, and also gives the grounds for disinviting and whether those who objected were from the right or left of the speaker. It’s my impression from looking at this quickly that when the database began in 2000, the Right and Left were equally censorious, but over the last couple years the Left has predominated. Perhaps a reader would like to make a plot of this to see if my impression is correct.


  1. Heather Hastie
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    All those things that Fox News says about The Left are starting to be true. The fact is though that The Left is no longer liberal in many cases. They:
    1. Oppose speech they don’t agree with;
    2. Fail to support women, LGBT people, and atheists oppressed in Muslim-majority countries;
    3. Support anti-Semitic groups such as BDS.
    4. Are actively undermining the Clinton campaign while staying silent about, or sometimes even supporting, the Trump campaign. Whatever you say about Clinton, you can be damn sure she’ll do a better job of upholding liberal values than her opponent.

    The far left is increasingly authoritarian and I find it a disturbing trend.

  2. Posted August 4, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Shapiro is a very keen speaker and analyst,

    debunking BLM arguments

    railing against campus censorship at UC Berkley

    kudos to Professor Coyne for bringing up this issue that the Left ignores and condones and fighting against ideological censorship.

  3. Historian
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I have seen Ben Shapiro as a guest a couple of times on the Chris Hayes show on MSNBC. Hayes, a very liberal host, would not have a right-wing lunatic as a guest. Although I would certain disagree with Shapiro on many issues, he seemed a reasonable person. DePaul’s banning of Shapiro was totally uncalled for and another blow to free speech.

    • Zado
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Agreeing with above commenters:

      I watched about 15 minutes of Shapiro on the Rubin Report (stopped watching because he wasn’t saying anything new or revelatory and, my problem, I found his manner of speaking annoying) and he struck me as a level-headed, intelligent conservative.

      It’s a testament to how hysterical these students are that even someone like him is kept from speaking.

  4. Cate Plys
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    FYI, the Tribune had an editorial on this today.

  5. Historian
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Is it possible that this problem with censorship on campuses may in some measure be due to the lack of what was once called civics education and was routinely part of a high school curriculum? In other words, if students have not been taught how American government and democracy work, particularly in regard to the rights afforded by the first amendment, then they would be unaware of how “un-American” their attitudes are. I do not know if data exists as to the percentage of high school or college students that take classes in American government, but it is a statistic I would like to know.

  6. charlize
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Shapiro is a fine case for always letting people speak because sometimes an absurd notion is best discredited by the very person peddling that notion.

    For example Shapiro’s argument against banning the AR 15 semi-automatic rifle because of the threat of his own government turning on him in a tyrannical way.

  7. colnago80
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I have not the slightest sympathy for anyone associated with the Breitbart web site being banned. Just recently, Breitbart has begun a smear campaign against the Muslim speaker at the DNC Convention, Khizr Khan, whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004, because he had the temerity to criticize Donald Trump’s attitude toward Muslims. The Breitbart folks are John Birchers in cheap tuxedos.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      Is it true that Khizr Khan supports sharia over western law?
      Because if it is, he needs to be smeared. As does Islam and sharia.

      And supporting the banning of those pointing out such things is, interesting, or worse.

  8. Alpha Neil
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    To these students there is no distinction between the online and “real” worlds so it’s not really surprising that they treat a speaker as if it were a comment thread. Breitbart is hardly a bastion of free speech and these students are treating the speakers as they themselves would be treated if they tried to post a liberal opinion on breitbart. I don’t agree with the behavior but I think it makes more sense when viewed from this perspective.

  9. Posted August 5, 2016 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    Here’s that plot you were looking for (should be hosted at the link):

    I only used data from actual disinvitations, not from attempted disinvitations. There is no statistical evidence of a nonzero trend for disinvitations from the right. There does appear to be a significant increasing trend for disinvitations from the left, even if you exclude the very influential year 2016.

    Caveats: as far as I can tell, this data is essentially self-reported; i.e. if no one reports an incident, then it doesn’t show up in the database. It could be people are paying more attention to censorship from the left recently, which would explain the trend. Or it could be that people are not reporting censorship from the right as much as they used to for some reason. Etc….

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