MINNEAPOLIS – Emails obtained by Young America’s Foundation (YAF) reveal University of Minnesota administrators actively censored an event featuring conservative commentator Ben Shapiro earlier this year.
In February, UMN refused to provide a lecture hall on the main campus for the Shapiro lecture. Instead, the event was isolated on the St. Paul campus in a space far smaller than originally requested despite offering different accomodations on the Minneapolis campus for past liberal speakers. UMN’s handling of the event sparked outrage, with many students feeling the situation highlighted the school’s anti-conservative bias.
UMN President Eric Kaler released a statement on Twitter saying the administration’s “top priority is and will always be the safety and security of our University community.” Kaler tried to ease concerns of censorship, claiming “assertions that the University is moving an event space for ideological reasons…are patently false.” However, emails uncovered by YAF paint a different picture.
“Messages between top-level administrators show their intent to limit the size and location of the event due to the belief that leftists would react negatively to a conservative speaker at the University of Minnesota,” YAF spokesperson Spencer Brown wrote in a press release.
According to YAF, in one email exchange UMN Police Chief Matt Clark stated that “the crowd size needs to be limited to 500.” Clark also admitted the administration “asked that we try to move this visit to the St. Paul campus,” citing “past lectures at other universities.”
The administration was concerned about the “community reaction” according to emails from Assistant Director of Student Activities Erik Dussault. Dussault wrote he was “not sure” how the university would find a venue to accomodate the lecture.
In another email obtained by YAF, University of Minnesota Provost Karen Hanson wrote that “security isn’t the ONLY consideration on this scheduling.”
Brown said Hanson’s comments “leads one to ask what the other considerations were, if not unconstitutional viewpoint discriminatory restrictions.”
To add insult to injury, UMN Vice President of University Relations Matt Kramer previously slammed conservative students suggesting the university has an anti-conservative bias, saying there is “no sense trying to be nice to students who are flat out lying.”
“The real irony here is that it appears administrators, not students, are the ones struggling with veracity,” Brown said.
The emails were obtained by YAF through a public data request and are part of YAF’s Censorship Exposed project which aims to shed “light on the First Amendment abuses in America’s schools.”