On April 3, famed conservative Ben Shapiro spoke to a packed crowd of more than 750 students in the University Auditorium. Throughout the week, liberal students tried to bring down conservatives in their opinion posts by destroying promotional material and even trying to prevent students from attending the event by destroying their tickets. While there were little to no reports of this, there was zero outrage or any reports of the student in charge of the protest posting, “Hope this dude gets seriously taken out while he’s here. And not in the date way” on Facebook. Yet conservatives were labeled as the “dangerous” ones. We were the ones labeled in an opinion piece as not representative of “the morals and values UF promotes.” So, is threatening the life of another person the values UF promotes because they fit the narrative? It is sad, because in a meeting for the event, a school official asked me to make sure no conservatives brought signs that say “kill all trans people.” The only ones doing this were the protesters. Regardless of how disappointing this is to have a university official label nearly half of Gator students as murderous, it shows just how bad ignorance on conservatism has become. This is the U.S., not a country dictated by Sharia where LGBTQ people are murdered for being born the way they are. To deny conservatives their humanity — their wanting to be viewed as people with problems like anyone else — is the reason our political culture is so militant.
An opinion piece by Nicole Dan claimed Student Government should not be promoting hate speech through speakers like Shapiro because they are dangerous to students. Hate speech is the vague term used for anything someone disagrees with or is offensive to someone. While clearly some things should not be said, trying to silence conservatism with this is a poor excuse. Dan, who was mocked by Shapiro during his speech for her fallacies, claimed “a dramatic rise in anti-Muslim hate groups, and attacks on Muslim communities can come within hours of an incendiary speech by Trump. It’s not an overstatement to say that Shapiro could have similar effects.” It has been two days since Shapiro spoke, and I still have not seen anyone being attacked. Yet another call to arms with zero evidence.
Dan also does not believe Shapiro should be funded by student activity and involvement fees. This is fine as everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But, the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, disagrees with her. The Accent Speakers Bureau by law must maintain ”viewpoint neutrality” with the money given to events and clubs on campus. This was decided by the court cases Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia and Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth. Though this is required by law, Accent and SG have stood behind all students. This was proven in the recent Senate bill that reaffirmed free speech on campus as well as bringing diversity of thought through the Shapiro event. Sadly, the university itself does not keep this same standard. The university would much rather keep liberal students happy than conservatives. Even UF President Kent Fuchs would much rather neutralize events than do what is right. This is where I do feel for my fellow Gators on the left. Many times, it has taken extreme outrage for Fuchs to speak out about something. And that’s it. No change or action. Our university cares more about its image and neutralizing the bad than it does its own students.
The conservative movement at our university is gaining momentum. You saw this with the thousands of students who wanted to attend the Shapiro event. With such a large population, it is important our university represent ALL Gators, and not just the most outspoken. As president of Young Americans for Freedom at UF, I cannot tell you the amount of times students have thanked our organization for bringing this speaker. Students feel like they are finally being heard. There will be more events on campus, and we will work to make conservative students feel welcomed, not just those who are the loudest.
Daniel Weldon is a 20-year-old UF political science sophomore and the president of Young Americans for Freedom.