The Undergraduate Student Government may cut funding for a Young Americans for Freedom event featuring conservative commentator Ben Shapiro after the organization canceled tickets reserved by student leaders who criticized the event, fearing they would cause a disruption.
Screenshots of canceled tickets acquired by the Daily Trojan showed the names of student leaders in the Black Student Assembly, Latinx Student Assembly and Student Assembly for Gender Empowerment. The cancellation of these leaders’ tickets comes after the assemblies shared a statement with the hashtag #SoundTheAlarm, which criticized the University for “funding [an] event that threatens, dehumanizes, and endangers our communities.”
While the University did not fund the event, YAF did receive a maximum amount of $4,100 from USG’s Discretionary Fund. According to the fund’s guidelines, events that receive discretionary funding must be free for all USC undergraduate students.
“USG funding has a very strict policy guideline in which any event that is put on by a registered student organization needs to be free of charge and open to all USC students to attend,” USG Treasurer Hunter Quarteri said.
Quarteri added on Wednesday that the Campus Activities department of the Office of Student Affairs opened an investigation after learning of the ticket cancellations.
“Once I explained to them the situation, [Campus Activities] told me that they are now investigating this situation,” Quarteri said in an email to the Daily Trojan. “I am told I will remain in the loop of what is happening as this investigation happens and will be told what the final verdict the department decides on.”
YAF chairman Maxwell Brandon said that he understands the funding rules and that he is not concerned that the USG funding will be revoked. He said the cancellations were to “mitigate problems of people coming in to intentionally disrupt” the event scheduled for Oct. 4 at Bovard Auditorium.
“We have fair reason to believe that the specific individuals were planning on … getting tickets to disrupt the event or getting tickets to obstruct people from going to the event,” Brandon said. “We do have some record of very specific people and those people were removed. We as an organization couldn’t care less what organization people are associated with.”
Brandon added that multiple canceled tickets were also from accounts with false names that included expletives and other descriptors, which indicated that they were not serious attendees. One of the users had reserved 14 tickets, Brandon said.
One student whose ticket was canceled had encouraged others in a group chat for Latinx students to “reserve as many tickets as possible to shut [the event] down.”
“[Shapiro] denies racism and is transphobic [and] islamophobic, and we shouldn’t have to put up with that on our campus,” the student wrote.
SAGE co-Executive Directors Anya Kushwaha and Rosa Wang said that YAF’s decision to terminate their entries to the event was “discriminatory in nature.” Kushwaha and Wang shared the #SoundTheAlarm statement and both had their tickets canceled. They said they plan to compare the people whose tickets were canceled with those whose did not, in order to provide proof of discrimination.
“Seeing a feminist organization that is often discounted and targeted by people who don’t think that [these] issues are necessary … and because [I have] a ‘typical Asian last name,’ I feel like they went off of those characteristics and canceled my ticket,” Wang said.
Brandon said, however, that he does not care what organization attendees are from, and invites those with differing opinions to attend the event.
“But there’s too much work going into the event to risk having a large number of people coming in to disrupt the event when we have reasons to believe that’s what their plan is,” Brandon said.
Soon after the SAGE co-directors found out their tickets had been removed, LSA co-Executive Director Eloisa Campuzano said she and Assistant Director Andra Astorga had their tickets canceled as well. Campuzano said she originally planned to attend the event but was also concerned that it would attract “potentially dangerous people” to campus.
Shapiro’s talks have prompted protests and violence in the past. Last year, multiple people were arrested amid protests at UCLA and UC Berkeley.
“As a student leader, I feel responsible for the community, especially for their safety,” Campuzano said. “And part of that includes being in spaces where I may not be comfortable, but where I can be there in case something does happen.”
Now that she can no longer attend the event, Campuzano said she plans to participate in a protest scheduled on the same day, but is unsure what action LSA as a whole will take to address the ticket cancellations.
“I do think it’s important to address that this is unfair, especially since a message wasn’t put out concerning the cancellations. They were just canceled,” Campuzano said. “It does call into question whether this event is inclusive or exclusive and what that means in terms of funding.”
Brandon said YAF only canceled certain tickets to ensure that the event can proceed without disruption. He told the Daily Trojan earlier this week that the organization allotted $1,000 to add a space for people to protest outside of Bovard Auditorium, and that he hopes people who disagree with Shapiro come to listen.
“The rule is if you disagree with Ben Shapiro, you get to go to the front of the line because it makes for a lot more interesting event,” Brandon said. “We don’t want an echo chamber in Bovard. We would much prefer it to be a good mix of different, diverse ideas.”
BSA leaders declined to comment to the Daily Trojan.