In the month of February, the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter at California State University – Los Angeles (CSULA) made national news when they brought Ben Shapiro to campus as part of the Fred R. Allen lecture series. Despite violent protests, threats, and multiple attempts to cancel the event, CSULA YAF prevailed and brought conservatism to their campus for the first time in years. For their fearlessness and commitment to free speech, CSULA YAF is named February YAF Chapter of the Month.
Chairman Mark Kahanding who started the chapter earlier this year said, “The reason why I wanted to bring Ben Shapiro was because he was the reason I became a conservative. I read his book Bullies and it changed how I viewed liberals. I wanted the students at CSULA to have the same impact I had.”
Mark titled the event, “When Diversity Becomes a Problem” because “CSULA prides itself in diversity you see posters everywhere on campus saying to embrace diversity. It’s so emphasized that there are even diversity courses that students MUST take in order to graduate. I wanted to present a different point of view saying that sometimes ‘diversity’ can be a problem, because focusing on diversity of skin color is wrong and racist.”
CSULA YAF boldly promoted the event on a campus extremely hostile to conservative ideas. They did not fall victim to the left’s intimidation tactics, which included sociology professor Robert Weide challenging students to a wrestling match, and Black Lives Matter founder Professor Melina Abdullah mobilizing the Black Lives Matter movement against YAF and Ben Shapiro. Instead of backing down, CSULA YAF continued to plaster their campus with fliers to make sure everyone knew about the event.
Despite the event funding being approved by the student government twice, the administration did everything possible to prevent conservative ideas from being heard. When CSULA president Robert Covino made a content-based decision to cancel the event, CSULA YAF decided to exercise their constitutional right to free speech and go forward with hosting Ben Shapiro.
The day of the event, CSULA YAF stood strong despite violent protests. Leftists formed a human chain around the entire auditorium in order to prevent anyone from hearing Ben Shapiro speak. CSULA YAF remained determined to have a conservative voice heard, and was able to fill the auditorium by smuggling students in three at a time via police escort through a back door.
CSULA YAF grew from six members to thirty-three members the day after the event. Mark Kahanding says “We received several messages from students who were so excited to join us who were so excited that someone was making a stand against the liberals on campus. We plan on bombarding the campus with non-stop speakers and getting the word about conservatism.”
Along with Chairman Mark Kahanding, the CSULA YAF chapter is lead by Vice President Lisa Di Giovanna, Publicity Officer Olivia Karapanian, Treasurer Storm Scully, and Secretary Ana Martinez.
Congratulations for CSULA YAF on their conservative victory and for being named February Chapter of the Month!
Lauren McCue is Program Officer for Chapter Services at Young America’s Foundation.