MINNEAPOLIS – A major donor to the University of Minnesota (UMN) has pulled his financial support over the school’s treatment of 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.
Now UMN’s treatment of the student-organized event featuring Shapiro continues to haunt the school. In a letter to UMN President Eric Kaler, an alumnus and major donor announced he would be revoking his annual contribution to the school, instead sending the money to Young Americans for Freedom, the chapter affiliate of Young America’s Foundation (YAF) which sponsored the Shapiro event.
“I believe the treatment of Ben Shapiro was clearly a case of discrimination,” the donor wrote. “It was not discrimination by race or gender. It was more damaging than that. You have discriminated against the free dissemination of ideas.”
The donor, who remained anonymous due to fear of political retaliation, expressed “great sadness” over UMN’s treatment of Shapiro and the conservative students who worked to bring him on campus. In the letter, the donor boldly challenged why the discrimination of conservative voices has become so prevalent on conservative campuses, saying he believes the administration and faculty members are fearful of students being exposed to a different way of thinking.
“The question then becomes why you discriminate against conservative thought,” the donor wrote. “My simple theory is that the administration and faculty of our major bodies of higher education are fearful. They are fearful that once people like Ben Shapiro speak about their conservative ideas, the students will begin to understand a simple fact.”
“It is the fact that they have been exposed to only one way of thinking and thus will be furious over having spent so much time and money only to find out that they have been essentially brainwashed,” he added.
YAF spokesperson Spencer Brown praised the donor’s decision to redirect his funding to Young Americans for Freedom, saying the donation will help “continue the vital work of holding schools accountable.”
“We applaud this patriotic American’s decision to withhold support from an institution that undermines and discriminates against conservatives,” Brown said. “Such a decision is an important first step in giving students a full, ideologically diverse education that includes conservative ideas. It’s a tragedy that this once-proud alumnus of the University of Minnesota has been abandoned by his alma mater.”