Student leaders exchange stances on Shapiro event during emotional senate meeting

BSA co-Director Nia Warren said violence would not stem from protests. (Lillian Zeng | Daily Trojan)

Student leaders launched into an emotional discussion during Tuesday’s senate meeting, after the Office of Campus Activities decided to not revoke funding for an event featuring conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.

The Office found that Young Americans for Freedom’s decision to cancel specific students’ tickets did not violate university rules. According to Director of Campus Activities Gabriel Valenzuela, there has not been a change of status regarding USG’s funding of the event, which will be held Thursday at Bovard Auditorium.

YAF received $4,100 from the Undergraduate Student Government’s Discretionary Fund. According to the fund’s guidelines, events that receive discretionary funding must be free and open to all undergraduate students. Last week, multiple student assembly leaders expressed their concern with YAF’s decision to cancel students’ tickets, arguing that the event’s funding should be revoked.

Sen. Max Geschwind initiated a discussion about the event and the controversy surrounding the ticket cancellations during Tuesday’s meeting, noting how he had never seen a conservative speaker at USC.

“The notion of intellectual diversity and diversity of thoughts and ideas is frequently seen as an invalid form of diversity,” Geschwind said. “It’s unacceptable, shameful and goes against everything college stands for to present a one-sided view of political issues facing this country.”

Sen. Michaela Murphy then asked YAF Chairman Maxwell Brandon why the group canceled certain students’ reserved tickets, adding that allotting $1,000 for student protestors was “a consolation prize” for the cancellations.

“It’s clear that there is racial profiling as a motivation,” Sen. Meagan Lane said to the Daily Trojan after the meeting. “It was stated that members of cultural assemblies who RSVP’d to protests were already known to have disagreement, which is a contradiction to what they say, because they say they want people to disagree and then they cancel the tickets of [those] who they had evidence of them disagreeing.”

Brandon explained that the organization had proof that students whose tickets were canceled planned to disrupt the event. He also said that the cancellations were not racially motivated.

“It’s not our fault if people get offended,” Brandon said. “We’re tired of having to tailor what we do around people that disagree with us … Regardless of what we do, those who disagree with us will never be happy, so we are going to do what we want to do, have it open to the best of our ability.”

BSA Assistant Director Mae Gates teared up while saying that the cancellation of her ticket was unacceptable.

“Up until now, I have definitely been silent about it. But now I feel the need to break that silence,” Gates said. “It’s unacceptable that I pay $64 a year and that money is going to someone who is not necessarily the most nice and the most light-hearted when it comes to racial issues, but also that I have to pay but continue to be unpaid [as a USG senate aide] to be disrespected.”

Brandon explained that YAF supported students’ right to peacefully protest, but that the organization would not allow for violent protests inside the event. He also explained that students who were upset with their tickets being canceled could have reached out to the organization.

Lane described her discontent toward Brandon’s reactions to people’s emotional responses about Shapiro and ticket cancellations.

“Your demeanor, your posture, your tone is kind of a slap in the face,” Lane said to Brandon. “People are out here putting their heart on their sleeve just to have a conversation … I would challenge you to take the mindset of listening.”

Black Student Assembly co-Director Nia Warren said that if violence did occur, it wouldn’t be from student protests.

“If you’re not bringing someone that’s violent, you’re bringing people in this crowd who are going to be incited by what he says to be violent,” Warren said. “Violence is not coming from our side.”

Shapiro is set to speak at Bovard Auditorium Thursday at 7 p.m. Protests of the event are also scheduled for the same day.