By Sarah McGrew, Co-Editor-in-Chief
If you stood on the steps of the UoR administration building on the evening of March 15, 2017, you would have seen a long line of students and community stretched across the quad and up to the entrance of the university chapel. Some said the line was due to conservatism being in high demand.
Author, talk show host, and editor of the dailywire.com, Ben Shapiro was invited by ASUR and the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) club at the UoR to speak on campus as part of the Spring Political Series. ASUR Executive Director of Convocations and Lectures Jacob Khuri initiated this speaker series in order “to build important conversations within our political climate on campus.” Previous on-campus speakers in this series include Bill Pope and Jim Messina.
YAF at UoR Chairman Gina McIsaac credits Shapiro’s “extensive educational background and his fearless attitude” as her reason for inviting him to speak. Shapiro earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science from UCLA and graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School.
The chapel quickly filled as the crowd of over 800 waited in anticipation for Shapiro to take the stage. While the crowd was predominately UoR student and community followers of Shapiro, those with opposing views were scattered intermittently throughout the audience.
Shapiro was met with explosive applause as he took the stage. During his speech he discussed his idea of the victim hierarchy, which “creates victim privilege.” According to Shapiro, at the top of this victim hierarchy are the LGBTQ+ community and at the bottom are white men. With this model, Shapiro claims that those at the top can say what they want with little judgment while white men face a higher level of scrutiny.
Shapiro also offered his steps to avoid being permanently poor in America. These three steps are: 1) Graduate high school, 2) don’t have children before marriage, and 3) get a job. He especially stressed that “if you believe, if you internalize the fact that you are a victim in American society, you are not going anywhere. If you believe that you are a victim and no matter how hard you work you are stuck; if you believe that someone else is going to put their boot on you and finish you, you are going to end up on the ground with no one standing over you except you. It’s going to be your own fault.”
MacIsaac was pleased with the event, saying: “The event was an incredible success and I am grateful the school backed us in bringing him.” The crowd was energetic and engaged as Shapiro talked about his ideals and political stance. Although the audience was dotted with those who opposed Shapiro’s stances, the crowd remained respectful during his speech.
As a prominent conservative speaker and intellectual, Shapiro has been met with resistance at university campuses. In the fall of 2016 Ben Shapiro was prevented from speaking on DePaul University’s campus. At the UoR, his presence was met with a counter-event: **LIBERATED. According to the event page, **LIBERATED aimed “to elevate the level of progressive political discourse on campus by bringing together a coalition of clubs and classes for a teach-in, potluck, and dance party of resistance.” In an opinion letter sent to the Redlands Bulldog, Khuri says, “I appreciate the intentions of the counter-event. In a time when when we are facing violent acts of protests in such institutions as UC Berkeley and Middleburry College, hosting a peaceful and original protest form of resistance is a powerful message that I hope resonates in universities across the nation.”
While the event served its purpose of bringing diverse voices to campus, it should be noted that Shapiro and his team broke their contract with the UoR by live streaming the event. Videos and live streams is something the UoR prohibits at many large events.
Following his speech, Shapiro took questions from members of the audience and signed books. MacIsaac says that YAF plans on bringing more speakers to campus “but dates have not been decided. We are currently looking at next semester.” However, the Spring Political Series will continue on April 4, when the UoR will welcome California Senator Barbara Boxer.