Ben Shapiro and Conservative Orgs Sue the UMN

On July 3rd, the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) filed a first amendment lawsuit against the University of Minnesota (UMN) for moving guest Ben Shapiro, editor of the Daily Mail and prominent conservative commentator, event to the St. Paul campus in February.

By moving the event to an approximately 500-person venue at the University’s St. Paul Campus, the plaintiffs allege that the University deprived them of their right to free speech, due process and equal protection under law.

The plaintiff’s allege that the UMN has consistently deprived its conservative speakers a proper platform to access the ‘free marketplace of ideas’ that higher education is supposed to promote.

YAF’s complaint claims that, ‘[M]any students were prevented from attending and participating in the speaking event, and Shapiro was forced to speak to less than half the number of students that desired to attend,’ referring to 450 seat Northstar Ballroom on the St. Paul campus, and Wiley Hall, which can seat a little more than a thousands people on the West Bank campus.

Dark Market Economist has verified that the seats were added, although Shapiro and company complained about their placement in the room. We also verified that campus buses still ran between the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses with the average trip between the two campus is 20 minutes.

Jack, a protester, protests the BEN SHAPIRO SPEECH in St, Paul MN
Jack, a protesters with the New Wave Collective, protests the Ben Shapiro event on the St. Paul Campus of the UMN

The 'Speech Suppression Policy'

The University’s the Large Scale Events Policy—as the YAF, CSV and Shapiro call a ‘Free Speech Suppression Policy—is used to, ‘censor, restrict, and inhibit unpopular student speech, thus unconstitutionally infringing upon students’ First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights’.

Having ‘[F]ailed to establish narrow, objective, and definite standards governing the imposition of restrictions on student organization events,’ they claim UMN administrators failed to protect their freedom of speech. Without narrow guidelines or a process of appeal, the policy fails to provide the YAF and CSV due process. By preventing the YAF and CSV from using a space on the West Bank campus for Ben Shapiro’s event, they allege that they were deprived of equal protection under the law.

Spencer Brown, spokesperson for the YAF, said, ‘Administrators’ discriminatory treatment of conservatives—quarantining Shapiro and a limited number of students who wished to hear his ideas to a remote area of the St. Paul Campus—was a result of administrators’ disagreement with the viewpoint of Shapiro’s speech.’

President of the UMN, Eric Kaler, responded to the group’s early accusations of free speech suppression before the event in February.

October 2017: Lauren Southern appeared on the West Bank Campus of UMN. Police and State Troopers responded to protests outside and locked down the square later.

Lauren Southern

The SCV believes that it was victim to this same policy back in October 2017 when they brought Lauren Southern to discuss, ‘[T]he evils of Socialist Authoritarianism and the Necessity of Free Speech’. Fortunately, I was able to attend the event as a media guest.

CFACT, one of the hosting organizations that was not involved in the Shapiro event, posted the video here.

Video of Lauren Southern event posted by Keyboard Commando, a right-leaning Youtuber, shows the protesters—approximately 200-250 according to police and media accounts—and barricades outside.

UMN West Bank campus borders the Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, which is predominantly Somali especially important considering that 30 percent of Somali’s in the United States live in Minnesota. Before the event even started, one person that arrived early to the hall, in an attempt to engage the speaker about her book, ‘Barbarians: How Baby Boomers, Immigrants, and Islam Screwed My Generation’, but was removed by police.

Protesters did not just take issue with Ms. Southern’s speech, since the bulk of the protests were aimed at the funding of the event, which partially came from student service fees. The Southern event was one instance among many where these fees have incited protests.

In the end, several fights broke out with at least one arrest made, police sprayed pepper spray, and eventually declared the event outside a public disturbance—ordering protesters to leave under threat of arrest.

What do they have in common?

Lauren Southern’s protest, like Mr. Shapiro’s, and was moved by the administration. The groups hosting the event initially reserved Mayo Auditorium, but then the University moved the event two times and then settled on its location in Anderson Hall.

Anderson Hall is located in the middle of the University of Minnesota’s West Bank campus, across a small plaza from the Wiley Hall venue that they tried to reserve for the Shapiro event.

Campus are no stranger to political polarization. The UMN and President Kaler, are strangers to controversy.

One notable example of this was in 2014, when Condelezza Rice, former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, spoke at Northrup auditorium. Northrup Auditorium is located in the middle of the East Bank campus—an area with even more foot traffic the the West Bank—yet Kaler put up no resistance.

Students for Democratic Society and other groups called for the event invite to be rescinded—it was not.  Then they, with the support of 200 professors, asked the campus senate to condemn the former Secretary’s appearance—they voted 122–21 against it.

Young America Foundation et al v. Kaler et al is under court’s authority now—let’s remember whats at stake here is our right to speak freely, and specifically how we define obstacles to that freedom. 

 

We’ll be following up with more of the Young America Foundations ongoing lawsuit with officials from the University of Minnesota. If you’d like to follow up with the latest developments check back here!

If you found this piece illuminating, check out more of Dark Market Economist’s Politics section!

  • Tyler Newman

    Reporter

    A journalist determined to tell the stories tucked away in the shadowy corners of the digital world, specializing in coverage of U.S. politics and international trade. He has produced and written stories for the Growler magazine, the Rift Magazine, Leafly.com and the Minnesota Daily.

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