UMN Under Fire For Quarantining Ben Shapiro Lecture

Ben Shapiro's event at University of Minnesota is being isolated away from the main campus while previous speakers including former Sen. Al Franken and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have been offered space centrally located on the Minneapolis campus.

Ben Shapiro - Image credit: Gage Skidmore

MINNEAPOLIS – The University of Minnesota (UMN) has come under fire for isolating an upcoming event featuring conservative speaker Ben Shapiro despite offering different accommodations for past liberal speakers.

Shapiro’s February 26 lecture, organized by Young America’s Foundation (YAF), was originally set to take place on UMN’s main Minneapolis campus. However, when event organizers attempted to reserve a lecture hall which had previously been used by liberal speakers like former Sen. Al Franken and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), their requests were denied.

According to YAF Spokesperson Spencer Brown, the centrally-located Ted Mann Concert Hall, which has a capacity of 1500, was rejected due to a “schedule conflict,” despite no known conflicting events at the time of the request. Another lecture hall, the Willey Hall with a capacity of 800, was denied due to its proximity to the light rail transit station over concerns that potential demonstrators could shut down the light rail line. Lastly, event coordinators requested the Mayo Memorial Auditorium with a capacity of 450. The request was denied over fear of demonstrators blocking entrance to the connected UMN hospital.

Instead of offering a lecture hall on the main campus, school officials suggested a venue several miles away in the St. Paul Student Center. The venue can hold 400 people.

Three red markers represent the venues conservative students requested, the blue marker is the venue the school assigned for Shapiro’s lecture. Image from YAF

Brown believes UMN’s treatment of the event demonstrates the university’s “clear anti-conservative bias” and “double standard” in the way they treat political speakers. Just last year the now-disgraced former Sen. Al Franken held a lecture in the Ted Mann Concert Hall. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren spoke in the same auditorium last October.  

“The University of Minnesota’s actions betray a clear anti-conservative bias and a double standard in how they treat speakers based on the ideas they advance,” Brown told Alpha News. “The school’s decision to push Ben Shapiro’s lecture to a venue miles away from the main center of campus is the result of what appear to be viewpoint discriminatory time, place, manner restrictions leveraged to limit attendance and muzzle conservative ideas.”

According to YAF, Shapiro has participated in over 40 campus lectures across the country. Not one of the events turned violent. However, UMN appears to be worried about violent left-wing demonstrators, therefore limiting the venue options.

“When working to accommodate a venue request, our top priority is and will always be the safety and security of our University community, and with that in mind the University works with organizers to determine a location that meets everyone’s needs to the best of our ability,” UMN President Eric Kaler wrote in a statement released on Twitter.

Brown considers UMN’s move a punishment for conservative students, saying the event should not be restricted over the administration’s fears of upholding the rule of law when “intolerant leftists lash out.”

“The use of these restrictions on where Shapiro is allowed to speak and in how large of a venue does nothing but punish conservative students who are seeking to boldly advance conservative ideas,” Brown said. “Their events should not be regulated near the point of prohibition because the administration fears they’re unable to uphold the rule of law when intolerant leftists lash out.”

Brown says tickets for the event sold out in less than 24 hours and they are still receiving requests from students wishing to attend the event. If the event stays in the current location, many students will not be able to attend the lecture.

“There is huge demand for conservative speakers among today’s young people, especially when bold conservatives appear on liberal campuses—without YAF-sponsored lectures, many students would never hear conservative ideas articulated during their college years,” Brown said. “U of M administrators and faculty have kowtowed to intolerant leftists, rather than taken steps to protect freedom-loving students’ ability to freely advance their ideas.”

For more details on the event, click here. Stay tuned to Alpha News for further coverage of the event.