Letter to the Editor: on Ben Shapiro and free speech

Dear Editor,

To have been a queer student on Whitworth University’s campus for the past two weeks is to have been surrounded by the debate over whether or not Ben Shapiro should be allowed to come to campus. The default liberal position seems to be that Shapiro’s radical and inflammatory messages would threaten the safety of minority students. While the conservative position is that denying a conservative speaker is a violation of free speech. The question no one seems to be asking, however, is “What does free speech mean on a college campus?” Does it mean any and everyone should be allowed to say whatever they want on our campus? The very presence of a vetting system for speakers seems to suggest otherwise. My belief is that the college campus should be a place for discourse. It should be a forum for disparate sides to expand their worldview using facts, reason, and civility. And an arena for ideas from opposing viewpoints to clash against each other for the sake of knowledge and understanding. Ben Shapiro does none of this. He favors rhetoric over reason, biases over facts and selfish victory over the higher truth for which all educational institutions stand. The question Whitworth needs to ask itself is not “should we allow conservative voices on campus?” That question has already been answered by the plethora of conservative speakers, including Colin Powell and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who have presented without incident. The question we need to ask is “what kind of speaker will best foster an education of mind and heart for Whitworth’s students, staff and community?”

Kohlton Wilcox