A crossroads for free speech on our campus

(Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons) Dennis Prager speaks behind a podium.

After all my opinion pieces regarding the value of freedom of speech and an open marketplace of ideas, we at UW have been presented with an opportunity to demonstrate that we are a truly open-minded and reasonable campus.

We have an opportunity to exude that we are a community of inclusion and respect for differing beliefs.

We have the opportunity to be what universities ought to be and what much of academia has strayed away from- a place for the mature and collected discussion and debate of ideas.

Turning Point USA (TPUSA) is bringing Dennis Prager to speak on our campus. It is this opportunity, which grants us the chance to rise above the typical campus trends, where we must be respectful on all ends and sides of the discussion.

So far, several individuals within our student body and, more ashamedly, among our very own student government have unjustly acted against this reasonable attempt to introduce a viewpoint not oftentimes represented on college campuses. Their acts (so far) include: tearing down posters, spreading blatant lies via social media, threats and more. These attempts in particular do not protest a speaker, they protest the right of Mr. Prager to speak.

There are students here incapable of the mature and collected discussion aforementioned. They might likely claim that the current political climate is too far gone for civil discussion anymore, which somehow justifies their actions. Is that really the case? Or, more likely, is it a half-baked attempt to justify their impudent reaction to a speaker with views contrary to their own? Assuredly, it is the latter.

What greater power bestowed upon these actors the ability to declare Dennis Prager such a controversial character that it calls for such treatment? Who are they to, in the event description for the “peaceful” protest, libel Prager as an anti-Semite, a Neo-Nazi (he himself is Jewish), a rape-apologist, or as anti-woman? These accusations are patently false and hilariously hyperbolic.

(Photo courtesy of Jessica Leach) A screenshot of the email sent from ASUW Director of Diversity Hunter McFarland to Turning Point USA President Jessica Leach.

ASUW Director of Diversity Hunter McFarland has not only publicly mobilized herself as a leader of a protest against the event, but also has levied a threat upon TPUSA’s student leader. The threat, although not direct, calls upon the leader of the TPUSA to discontinue her efforts to bring Prager to campus. McFarland demands this of the TPUSA, lest she and her band of protesters bring a level of protest akin to that seen at Milo Yiannopoulos events.

For reference, according to CNN, protesters at Yiannopoulos’s event at UC Berkley caused $100,000 worth of damage, attacked two College Republicans, threw Molotov cocktails that ignited fires and smashed windows of the student union. Six people were physically injured. McFarland is essentially calling for similar treatment of our very own campus.

Readers, the level of disappointment and outrage that this should inspire within you is considerable. A leader within our student government is acting against the very students she professes to represent.

In this piece, with the above atrocity considered, I call upon Director of Diversity McFarland to abdicate her title as diversity director, or rescind her involvement with the protest and apologize to the leadership of TPUSA and the student body as a whole.

If that cannot be accomplished, then I urge President Wetzel to consider some method of reproach to suit the unprofessionalism exuded by one who holds a seat in our student government’s executive.

I want to make this abundantly clear- the right to TPUSA’s hold and promote the event simultaneously covers the right for protesters to protest the event. That right does not protect the threats seen and the libelous language used.

That being considered, I think those protesting will find that they will have more success and be granted more credibility if they do not succumb to the typical tirade of proverbial buzzword vomit or misuse of terms like “Neo-Nazi” and “rape-apologist.”

Students, we must hold true that Mr. Prager has a right to speak here. It is GOOD that Mr. Prager is speaking here. This event provides opportunity for us to rise above the petulance seen in other campuses. Let us hold this event respectfully, and let us protest the event respectfully.

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1 Comment

  1. In Response to Andrew Server’s Branding Iron Article I sent Turning Point and the Branding Iron this email this morning:
    Dear Turning Point USA and the Branding Iron,
    I want to make it 100% clear to all of you that my email yesterday to Turning Point was by no means a threat of violence, but a courtesy to let them know that we will have a protest if they continue with their event so they should strongly reconsider. They are reading in-between the lines, and not very well I may add. In fact, I sent Turning Point the link to the event we posted on Facebook that clearly stated the protest would be peaceful. I also contacted UW Police before I contacted Turning Point and let them know that the event would be peaceful and that we would shut down the protest if anyone’s safety is in jeopardy.
    Additionally, I am acting as a student and a coach of the University of Wyoming debate team and not as Director of Diversity of ASUW. Therefore, the Branding Iron has misrepresented information to the entire student population and you should issue a retraction.
    Please post this statement in the Branding Iron, and if you refuse to I will go to a higher authority including Wyoming Public Radio who I already have an interview planned with.
    Turning Point should seriously reconsider paying a racist, a rape apologist, and a homophobe $17,000 to come to our campus.

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