Conservative commentator and writer Ben Shapiro will come to campus on Nov. 7 for “Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings,” a lecture where Shapiro will aim to “debunk” liberal ideologies at Stanford’s Memorial Auditorium.
Shapiro collaborator Andrew Klavan, who spoke on campus in May, was criticized prior to the event by Stanford administrators for “fostering anti-Muslim sentiment.” Klavan works for conservative publication The Daily Wire, where Shapiro is editor-in-chief.
Also in May, flyers containing art by Jewish, pro-Palestine cartoonist Eli Valley were criticized as anti-Semitic in their portrayal of Shapiro, who is also Jewish. The flyers were placed by Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace at Stanford (JVP). They were criticized by University administrators, and SJP and JVP later apologized.
Though Shapiro has been criticized, like Klavan, for fostering anti-Muslim sentiment, Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris confirmed in an email to The Daily that the University has taken “no stated position” on the Shapiro event.
“A lecture by Ben Shapiro would have a particularly profound and lasting impact on Stanford’s political culture,” wrote SCR President Stephen Sills ’22 in a statement to The Daily. “His unmatched ability to crystalize the moral and practical arguments for conservatism while meticulously deconstructing leftist fallacies and false narratives enables him to persuade non-conservative audiences.”
Shapiro’s controversial past
Shapiro is a lawyer, author and columnist, as well as fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a conservative platform for political debates. He is no stranger to controversy, attracting criticism for his positions on hot-button issues. Shapiro strongly opposes abortion and has said that being transgender is a mental illness. In a tweet that he has since apologized for, Shapiro wrote, “Israelis like to build. Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage.”
Stanford Democrats Co-president Eliza Steffen ’20 condemned Shapiro’s visit in a statement to The Daily.
“Shapiro has a long history of making bigoted statements against marginalized and oppressed communities, demonstrating homophobia, transphobia, sexism and Islamophobia,” Steffen wrote. “We hope that the university does everything within its power to ensure that all students feel safe and welcome in our campus community before, during and after Shapiro’s visit.”
But Sills argued that a Shapiro visit is a welcome break from the “the leftist establishment at Stanford,” which he said “attempts to put students under the impression that certain premises — which are false — of leftist ideology are reality.”
Shapiro has written a nationally syndicated column and authored several books. Around the publication of his fourth book, Shapiro became a fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a conservative platform for political debates. The Center is also the parent of FrontPage Magazine and Jihad Watch, which has been described as Islamophobic by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the University of California, Berkeley.
In 2015, Shapiro and his business partner Jeremy Boreing founded the conservative news and opinion website The Daily Wire, where Shapiro serves as the editor-in-chief and host of the political podcast, The Ben Shapiro Show.
Shapiro has repeatedly been the subject of backlash and the target of anti-Semist remarks. A 2016 study, from the Anti-Defamation League, found that Shapiro was the journalist targeted the most by anti-Semitic tweets from Aug. 2015 to July 2016.
From 2016 to 2017, Shapiro spoke at 37 college campuses across the country, facing opposition from university administrators and students. Shapiro was expected in 2016 to deliver a lecture titled “When Diversity Becomes a Problem,” at California State University, Los Angeles. The university’s president barred Shapiro from speaking on campus three days before the event, but reversed his decision. Shapiro received opposition from students who blocked the doors to the event and triggered the fire alarm.
The Berkeley College Republicans invited Shapiro to speak on campus in 2017 following a letter from the school’s chancellor, promoting a culture of free speech on campus. The University paid $600,000 for security and the event resulted in nine arrests of protestors.
Controversy over past SCR events
The Andrew Klavan appearance in May was just the latest in a string of controversial SCR events. In November 2017, SCR led efforts to bring self-proclaimed Islamophobe Robert Spencer to campus. In June 2018, the group hosted a “Make Stanford Great Again” event featuring Turning Point USA (TPUSA) conservative activists Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens.
Another controversial SCR event last year featured conservative filmmaker and former policy advisor to the Reagan administration Dinesh D’Souza, who was pardoned by Donald Trump after a campaign finance felony conviction. Students widely criticized the event in light of his controversial views and retweeting of hashtags including #burnthejews and #bringbackslavery, which he claimed were from fake accounts created by the left.
Controversy sparked further after arguments between Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) and SCR over funding for the D’Souza event. After SCR filed a suit with the judicial branch of the ASSU, the Constitutional Council, the ASSU agreed to fund the initial proposal for $6,000.
“We support an environment in which there is a free exchange of ideas, but it should be done in a culture of mutual respect, civility and dignity, and we feel that there’s kind of a breach of that aspect with this event,” said Senator Martin Altenburg ’21 in a Senate meeting.
An SCR Facebook post announcing the Shapiro event credited “the help of Young America’s Foundation and our generous donors and supporters.” The organization did not respond to questions regarding whether it requested funding from the University.
The Office of Student Engagement (OSE) did not explicitly say whether it had received or approved a funding request for the Shapiro event.
Asked about University funding for the event, Pat Harris wrote that SCR “followed all university processes and procedures to move forward with this event.”
“We hope that leftist students have developed the maturity to not disrupt and infringe upon the free speech rights of conservatives,” Sills wrote.
In her own statement, Steffen wrote, “The Stanford College Republicans have a history of inviting inflammatory speakers with a record of bigotry to speak at events attended largely by the non-Stanford public instead of by students at the University.”
“These events have done little to foster productive dialogue across the political spectrum; we have no reason to believe that Shapiro’s visit will be any different,” she added.
SCR has not yet shared registration information for the event but noted in an Oct. 10 Facebook post that it will be free and open to the public.
Contact Leily Rezvani at lrezvani ‘at’ stanford.edu.