Here’s proof civil discourse can still happen on campus
DENVER, Colo. — Turning Point USA and The Federalist Society chapters at the University of Denver hosted a panel last week at this school that, despite the compendium of thorny campus topics intimated by the title, was characterized by an absence of the antics that greeted many conservative campus events in 2017.
No protesters chanted or posted signs outside the venue. No hecklers interrupted the speakers. No students got up and raucously departed when the event, called “Denver Culture Wars,” began.
A few police officers stood by the door, but at least one appeared more concerned with hearing the panel than with any possible threats lurking outside. And unlike other similar events at UC Berkeley and the Columbia University, event organizers were not charged a penny for security fees, event organizer Jonathan Miceli told The College Fix.
There were a few pointed questions from some University of Denver College Democrats, and a couple from liberal audience members. On the whole, the event was a marked success and a small triumph for civil discussion.
Identity Politics and Politically Correct Excesses
Moderated by Justin Longo, president of a local conservative drinking group called Liberty for Lovers, the panel consisted of three conservative and libertarian voices: Hannah Scherlacher of Campus Reform, Will Witt of PragerU, and Krista Kafer of The Denver Post.
Each gave their perspective on the problems of political correctness and its relation to identity politics, and spoke to some extent on how it had impacted them or they had seen it impact others.
Speaking about college students who reach out to her with stories of left-wing excesses, Scherlacher described many as worried about speaking up. “[Students] send us stories, and often times they send them anonymously because they are afraid of the backlash,” she said.
Kafer described an encounter she had with a Home Depot employee who she said checked himself when expressing too great a concern about her safety with a chainsaw she was renting. Kafer said she called the store thereafter to commend the employee on his concern for her wellbeing.
Overall the thesis of the panel was that conservatives on campus, and increasingly outside of college, are largely being demonized by their counterparts on the left for refusing to submit to every politically correct stricture.
A robust debate
But it was the question and answer session where things really got interesting.
Co-President of the University of Denver College Democrats, Ryan Keenan, inquired when conservative anger is for “DACA students, and transgender students who cannot use the bathrooms at schools, or black men who are getting killed on the streets.”
Responding to the question about DACA students, Scherlacher said the problem is about “respecting the rule of law” and noted that there are many schools who offer perks and benefits to DACA students which they deny to students with legal status.
She added the question itself was a byproduct of hyperpolarization and identity politics, as Keenan had assumed that the panelists weren’t outraged about injustices perpetrated against black men.
Another questioner alluded to a moment earlier in the panel when a couple of the speakers mentioned improper methods of protesting, like breaking windows. Using John Brown, Martin Luther King, and Antifa as examples of the kind of change protest has wrought in America, the questioner asked what sorts of protests are proper in the panelists’ minds.
Kafer drew a distinction between John Brown, who she said “hardened the hearts of the South… and sabotaged, in some respects, the anti-slavery message,” and Martin Luther King, who “never broke glass, never threw a punch.”
She continued: “Get out there and protest, by all means, but the minute you break something, you will harden hearts, and people will not listen to you.”
The evening’s civil and measured debate served as a welcome illustration of that very ethos.
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