NORTHFIELD, Minn. – St. Olaf College has banned conservative commentator Ben Shapiro from appearing on campus this April, saying the event poorly coincides with the anniversary of last year’s hate crime hoax.
Conservative students at St. Olaf have been working since November to coordinate an event on campus featuring Shapiro. The event, sponsored by Turning Point USA, was scheduled for April 23, however, the administration called off the event a week before the contract was set to be finalized, calling the timing “inappropriate.”
Last April, St. Olaf erupted in protests triggered by a racist note left on an African American student’s car. The note was eventually revealed to be a hoax designed to draw attention and stir up racial discord on campus. Despite the source of the protests being fake, the school administration said the campus is “still healing” and having Shapiro speak nearing the anniversary of the disturbance would be “deeply concerning.”
“The issue is not about whether Ben Shapiro can come to our campus, but when,” St. Olaf President David Anderson wrote in an email to the event organizers. “As you all know, the only date that Mr. Shapiro has indicated he is willing to travel to our campus is at a time that coincides with the anniversary of last year’s protests. This is deeply concerning. Our campus is still healing from that experience.”
The administration has failed to explain why they are attempting to connect Shapiro with the racial hoax, instead merely dismissing the timing as “inappropriate.” Anderson claims they want the campus community to be “focused on building unity” as they approach the anniversary of the protests, saying an event featuring Shapiro would be “counterproductive to that goal.”
“One year after the unrest, I would like this to be a time where our community is focused on building unity,” Anderson wrote in an email. “For these reasons, having Mr. Shapiro come during the last week of April is counterproductive to that goal, and inappropriate.”
Conservative student and Turning Point USA chapter President Kathryn Hinderaker has been leading the efforts to bring Shapiro to campus, working to coordinate the event for almost a year when the administration shut it down. Hinderaker understands the desire prevent further provocation, however, she rejects the notion that Shapiro and the hate crime hoax have anything in common.
“Ben [Shapiro] and the racist note have absolutely nothing in common, so having them on the same day should be no issue at all if the school has any interest in fostering intellectual diversity among its students,” Hinderaker told Alpha News. “I had students emailing me for days after that expressing how disappointed they were in the administration. They robbed their students of an incredible opportunity, and I find that to be a real shame.”
According to Hinderaker, the school’s actions not only highlight a double standards for conservatives on campus, but also try to make a connection between racism and conservatism, an assumption she calls “completely false” and “offensive.”
“Would they allow a liberal speaker to speak on this day? Of course they would. This shows the connection the school is supposing between racism and conservatism. This assumption is not only completely false, but offensive,” Hinderaker said. “The school considering conservative thought to be racist shows a deep lack of understanding, along with a clear unwillingness to foster civil discussion among their students.”
The administration attempted to remedy the situation by encouraging the event coordinators to find another date. Having spent months working to secure the April date, Hinderaker explained there were no other 2018 dates available. Despite the inability to reschedule, the administration refused to reverse their decision. However, Hinderaker said the conservative groups on campus will continue to try to secure another conservative speaker for this spring.
“We are already planning to bring in a different speaker this spring, and hope to bring in a another conservative speaker this fall,” Hinderaker said. “Hopefully we will be allowed to follow through with these events.”