If Ben Shapiro comes I don’t want to go here anymore, student senator says
The Young America’s Foundation has been denied official recognition by the student government at Santa Clara University, with one student senator suggesting the club would be harmful to minority students.
Another student senator cited concern for the conservative group’s stance against illegal immigration, and also suggested YAF speaker Ben Shapiro causes “emotional harm.”
Santa Clara University’s YAF chapter had sought official recognition from the university’s student government on two occasions, first in late April and a second time in late May.
By obtaining recognition, the student group would be able to secure funding, reserve rooms and invite outside speakers.
The first vote was overturned by the student supreme court, which ruled it null on procedural grounds, but on May 23 the club was again denied recognition, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a watchdog group which has followed the situation closely.
According to the minutes of the May student government meeting, student Sen. Raul Orellana read a statement from a constituent to express why he was voting against recognizing YAF.
“I also think that the presence of YAF would further marginalize minority students on campus and if anything makes minority students feel more unsafe or targeted,” the statement said. “What struck me, as a woman who is often labeled as an immigrant by white people, even though I was born here, is ‘sharing inspiring stories with legal immigrants which is very high on the initiatives list. First of all, no human is legal on stolen land.”
“Secondly, sharing these stories is unnecessary and is YAF’s way of trying to slight or undermine undocumented immigrants, which in turn will target undocumented students, faculty, and staff on this campus,” the statement continued. “Also, Ben Shapiro has been known to spew Hate Speech, and I know that the school loves to preach about Lenard’s Law, but Hate Speech continues to perpetuate bigotry and insensitivity and racism.”
Shapiro was also brought up by another student senator, Hiwad Haider, who said, according to the meeting’s minutes: “Number one, the top underlining speaker that YAF wants to attract is Ben Shapiro. I’m a Muslim student, I am observing Ramadan right now, and I about to break my fast. Ben Shapiro is probably one of the most Islamophobic people. If they bring him to campus, I don’t want to go here anymore. He has been known to say things like Muslims in Europe are a disease, that Afghans civilians are worth nothing compared to white Afghan soldiers. He said that people who die in Afghanistan in the West Bank, that he doesn’t care about it. I’m talking about intent versus impact because these impacts do have emotional harm and I can’t feel good about that and I can’t tolerate that.”
Several student senators also spoke in favor of the group, but ultimately they were outnumbered. “The final vote tally, which was 13-13, did not meet the required 2/3 quota for approval,” according to a YAF news release.
“It seems that the senators can’t put aside their ideological biases to promote free speech and freedom of expression on their campus,” their statement added.
This isn’t the first time that the Jesuit university’s student government has denied a conservative group official recognition.
In 2017, a chapter of Turning Point USA was also denied approval, with student government leaders saying at the time to approve the club would be a strike “against humanity.” But the administration overruled the student government and allowed the club.
YAF and FIRE hope for the same thing to happen in this case.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education calls for the school’s administration to overrule the student government’s decision, which FIRE says is “discriminatory.”
“The university administration cannot allow the ASG’s viewpoint-based decision to stand since the student government is an extension of the university, and the decision violates the university’s explicit promises to uphold student free speech,” FIRE’s Zach Greenberg wrote.
“We [call] upon SCU to stand by the promise it makes to its students by ensuring that student groups are not denied recognition on viewpoint-discriminatory grounds.”
In their June 3 news release, YAF said that a meeting would be taking place with the university provost to discuss the possibility of overriding the student government’s decision.
But YAF spokesperson Spencer Brown told The College Fix in an email Friday that that meeting had been “unhelpful,” and that the administration officials had told YAF they need to “review the situation more.”
The school’s attorney is out of town for two weeks, Brown said, at which point another meeting will take place to discuss the situation.
The College Fix emailed and left voicemails on Friday with Santa Clara University’s two spokespersons seeking comment, but did not receive a response yet.