Dennis Prager, conservative columnist, radio host and speaker, will be speaking at the University of Wyoming today. The event has been titled, “Socialism Makes People Selfish.” Red, white and blue posters can be found throughout campus featuring a pock-nosed, cigar-smoking graphic of Prager.
Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a conservative nationally recognized non-profit, is hosting the speaker on campus. TPUSA’s aim is to, “identify, educate, train and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets and limited government,” according to TPUSA’s website.
TPUSA has an official Registered Student Organization at UW. The RSO is responsible for applying and arguing for Prager’s ability to speak at UW. Part of the controversy arises from the $10,000 allocated by ASUW for Prager to speak, this $10,000 come from student fees at ASUW’s discretion.
Turning Point USA did follow the correct procedure to receive funding as an RSO. TPUSA’s application included a budget and showed an educational or enhancing element to UW. The RSO was questioned by the RSO Funding Board and approved for recommendation to the UW Senate. Their request however, was over $1,000 and had to go before the UW Senate in order to fully be approved. In front of the UW Senate, TPUSA was required to make a similar case and answer similar questions regarding their event. Following this procedure it is then the responsibility of the senate to debate the request and vote. All RSOs go through this process to for an event requiring ASUW Funding, ASUW President Ben Wetzel said in an email.
Some organizers were concerned that unlawful protests may be planned in response to Prager’s visit.
“We’re hoping it’s just a respectful, traditional, protest,” College Republicans President Linnea Lueken, said. “We are concerned about an Antifa (an anti-fascist movement) presence in Laramie. How many Antifa members there are in Laramie is hearsay but there were maybe a couple dozen at an event earlier this year in Simpson Plaza.”
TPUSA and other conservative organizations like College Republicans have argued that Prager is merely adding equilibrium to a liberally skewed campus environment and is balance to the promotion of and speaking event hosted by The Good Mule Project and Shaun King last March at UW.
“[Campus ideology] is an area that changes year to year based off local, state and federal issues of policy that are happening as well as the students who feel that a certain subject or ideology needs represented,” Wetzel said in an email. “I don’t have any sort of assessment as to a balance.”
Student, Zak Bolender, said,”I’d say it’s a decent balance of those who have faith things will improve under GOP rule and those who want to wait for a return to common decency.”
Other students on campus have expressed similar concerns.
“I’ve been doing my research by listening to his podcasts and reading his articles,” social work graduate student, Monika Leininger, said. “He is definitely not an acceptable speaker to be hosted at UW, let alone ‘The Equality State.’”
According to an official statement by UW’s College Republicans, the group admitted there are people who disagree with Prager and that there are people planning to protest his appearance. The official statement also asks people to be open to another perspective “instead of blindly accusing [Prager] of hate and intolerance.”
“I will not be attending the speech,” Wetzel said. “Although I have the right to, I feel my sworn duties as a representative is to avoid misrepresenting the students with my personal beliefs and interests. I don’t believe I could attend the speech nor the protest without having a representation of my stance in regard to my office. I want to be an open, approachable representative of the student body, and hope to avoid a stance on political issues as is it not my duty.”
The event will be held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Nov. 9, at the UW Education Auditorium.