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After backlash, funding rescinded for conservative speaker at Concordia

Ben Shapiro's planned appearance at Concordia College has sparked controversy. Special to The Forum

MOORHEAD — Student leaders at Concordia College have rescinded their financial support to help bring in Ben Shapiro, a prominent conservative speaker whose expected appearance sparked an outcry on campus.

On Thursday, Dec. 7, Concordia's Student Government Association, following an inaugural State of the Students address, voted 28-2 against funding Shapiro's visit. More than 150 students and faculty filled Barry Auditorium for an hourlong discussion leading up to the vote that nullified a previous decision to fund the speaker.

The association voted 13-10 on Nov. 30 to allocate $7,080 to the campus chapter of right-leaning Young Americans for Freedom to fund an appearance by Shapiro. But that use of student funds drew criticism from some students, who objected to the subsidy.

"SGA's first goal is to listen to, represent, and act on the feedback of its students, and there will be a motion put forward to rescind the funding," said an email to the student body from the Student Government Association's executive team sent Wednesday, Dec. 6. "You are welcome to add to the discussion during the meeting."

The motion to rescind the student government funding said the student association should be "dedicated to supporting its underrepresented and marginalized students and the greater goal of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion at Concordia."

Some Concordia students, according to the motion to rescind funding, "have asserted that Shapiro's harmful messages targeting LGBTQ+ communities and other marginalized identities is in direct opposition to the dedication of Concordia and Student Government Association to support diversity, equity, and inclusion of all persons from all backgrounds and identities."

LGBTQ is shorthand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

Shapiro is an author and editor-in-chief of the conservative online publication the Daily Wire. He has made appearances on other college campuses.

The Young Americans for Freedom blasted the motion to rescind funding at Concordia, saying some student leaders were "eager to appease the minority of students" and calling those leaders "tyrants in training."

The Daily Wire published a scathing denunciation of the move to rescind support for Shapiro's appearance, saying the liberal backlash is part of a familiar pattern at campuses around the country.

"Bringing Ben Shapiro to campus would be a sign from Concordia College that they value intellectual and political diversity and that they care about the marginalized and underrepresented conservative voices on campus," the Young Americans for Freedom at Concordia said in a statement.

Collin Howard, a freshman and one of 10 active members of the Young Americans for Freedom, showed up to hear the deciding vote.

"It's a matter of free speech to let Shapiro come," Howard said. "Concordia is all about diversity. If Shapiro isn't allowed to come, then they aren't holding true to their statement of diversity. To have complete diversity, you need to have political diversity."

Howard said Concordia invited Black Lives Matter activist and writer Shaun King to speak on campus in January and King "is as far left as Shapiro is right."

SGA vice president Will Kuball said the association is working with Young Americans for Freedom to find a more suitable speaker. Kuball added that "free speech doesn't mean hate speech" and the decision to rescind funding was reflective of constituents.

The New York Times has described Shapiro, a 33-year-old Harvard Law School graduate, as an "extremely conservative" commentator who has been called the voice of the millennial conservative movement.

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