Photo Credit: Ben Wolter
Authored By Spencer Brown
June 25, 2018
Emails obtained by Young America’s Foundation through a public records request made as part of YAF’s Censorship Exposed project show University of Minnesota administrators engaging in content-based censorship of YAF’s lecture with Ben Shapiro.
Days before the February 26 lecture, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler issued a public statement on Twitter saying, in part, “Assertions that the University is moving an event space for ideological reasons…are patently false.”
Internal emails prove otherwise.
Messages between top-level administrators show their intent to limit the size and location of the event due to the belief that leftists would react negatively to a conservative speaker at the University of Minnesota. “We expect it to be protested and for there to be a community reaction,” writes Assistant Director of Student Activities Erik Dussault. UMN Police Chief Matt Clark states that “the crowd size needs to be limited to 500.” Chief Clark also admits “The admin has asked that we try to move this visit to the St. Paul campus,” citing “past lectures at other universities.” The administrators were seemingly confounded by the prospect of the conservative Shapiro speaking at their school, with Dussault writing “I’m not sure how we are going to find a venue on campus to accommodate this event.”
In another thread, University of Minnesota Provost Karen Hanson writes that “security isn’t the ONLY consideration on this scheduling,” which leads one to ask what the other considerations were, if not unconstitutional viewpoint discriminatory restrictions. Provost Hanson also contradicts her own police chief by saying “this event was never planned to be held in another venue, and it was not moved at all.”
It appears the University of Minnesota classified the event as a “large scale event” “which include the potential for large crowds, media involvement and/or high profile speakers.” This classification, made apparently at the discretion of administrators based on subjective standards, meant that the university “may require enhanced security, emergency personnel, or specific precautions,” among other review and approval processes. Highlighting the unbridled discretion employed by the University of Minnesota in denying conservative students a desirable venue for their lecture with Ben Shapiro, the internal FAQs which were circulated state that “For a variety of reasons, these [preferred] venues were not suitable for the event,” causing the University of Minnesota to quarantine conservative students and Ben Shapiro miles away from the main portion of campus.
After Young America’s Foundation highlighted the University of Minnesota’s bad-faith decisions and disparate treatment of the upcoming lecture with Ben Shapiro, national and local media outlets took note and began calling on UMN for an explanation. The negative press coverage led UMN Vice President of University Relations Matt Kramer to blast the conservative students, saying there is “no sense trying to be nice to students who are flat out lying,” adding “we need to call them out on this.”
The real irony here is that it appears administrators, not students, are the ones struggling with veracity.