Student groups criticize USC over Ben Shapiro event, policing

BSA, LSA and APASA shared statement criticizing USG’s decision to provide funding for an event hosted by the USC chapter of Young Americans for Freedom where Ben Shapiro is scheduled to speak. (Shideh Ghandeharizadeh | Daily Trojan)

Multiple student groups criticized USC after the Undergraduate Student Government agreed last week to fund an event featuring conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, citing the use of funds for extra policing and its effects on student minority groups.

The Black Student Assembly, Latinx Student Assembly and Asian Pacific American Student Assembly shared an unsigned statement over the weekend denouncing USC and accusing the University of co-hosting Shapiro. While the event received funding from USG, the University administration will not pay for the event and is not a co-sponsor of it, a USC source told the Daily Trojan.

Shapiro’s presence on college campuses has had a history of violence. Last September, nine people were arrested while protesting Shapiro at UC Berkeley; two were arrested during protests when Shapiro visited the University of Utah.

“The safety and lives of minority communities on the University of Southern California’s campus [are] in harm’s way,” said the statement, which also promoted the use of the hashtag #SoundTheAlarm. “[Shapiro] is known to be a purveyor of hate speech, including the eradication of entire races and discriminatory comments against a multitude of minority communities.”

Shapiro has made incendiary comments referencing race, sexuality and gender identity, such as accusing Arabs of enjoying violence — a statement he later apologized for — and calling transgender people mentally ill.

BSA was the first student organization to share the statement, but did not comment on whether member of the organization wrote it. LSA declined to comment and APASA did not respond in time for publication.

“We felt that students on campus — not just black students, but students of color … just need an opportunity to get to share their voice behind how they felt about this whole event taking place,” BSA leaders told the Daily Trojan.

USC’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a national conservative youth activism organization, announced in July that it would host Shapiro on Oct. 4.

The statement alleged that USC would pay for security on campus that would include uniformed and undercover police officers, along with a K-9 Unit.

Department of Public Safety Chief John Thomas said in a statement to the Daily Trojan that K-9 units were “never part of the safety plan.”

“It is our responsibility to assess the needs and provide sufficient resources to ensure the safety of members of our campus community and event participants,” Thomas said in the statement. “Our role is to make sure that all parties on campus may safely exercise their first amendment rights in accordance with university policy.”

According to DPS Assistant Chief David Carlisle, most of the security presence will be DPS officers, along with a “modest amount” of uniformed LAPD officers, but that city police will be on standby.

“I want to make it clear: DPS is not dissuading or denying anyone the right to demonstrate or protest or express themselves on campus,” Carlisle said. “We expect [our students] to behave responsibly and we don’t anticipate any problems. We’re there in the background, so to speak, to make sure that things remain peaceful.”

According to Maxwell Brandon, the chairman of USC chapter of YAF, the added security is not meant to “oppress minorities” or to stop a protest of the event, but to prevent violence.

“We’re not trying to squash anyone’s right to protest,” Brandon said. “We’re just trying to make sure that there’s not going to be any violence … [Police are] coming in as a First Amendment protection for both sides.”

Brandon explained that the total cost of DPS and private security staff amounted to $15,000. USG is providing $4,100 from the discretionary fund, the maximum for individual organizations per academic year allowed according to the USG Funding Guide. YAF said it will cover the remainder of the cost through fundraisers.

“We have very strict funding guidelines where every recognized student organization, regardless of political affiliation, can apply for funding,” said USG President Debbie Lee. “If the application follows procedures and guidelines, then it’ll be passed.”

YAF will allot $1,000 of the total cost to creating a designated area for students to protest. BSA leaders said, however, that they were unaware of the addition of the designated protest space.

“BSA would like an opportunity to share our voices and we’re glad that they decided to do that,” BSA leaders told the Daily Trojan.