It’s a sign of how intolerant campus culture has become when the news about a controversial speaker visiting a college is that it occurred without protesters violently disrupting the event.
Over 400 people, many in a overflow lecture hall, watched as conservative pundit Ben Shapiro spoke and fielded respectful questions from a mostly student audience at Marquette University Wednesday night. The event, sponsored by the Marquette Young Americans for Freedom, occurred without incident or even a sign of protesters.
It was quite the contrast to Shapiro’s November appearance at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, during which 20 protesters interrupted Shapiro’s speech with chants of “Safety! Safety! Safety!” and “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
Shapiro, the editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com and the host of “The Ben Shapiro Show,” spoke for about twenty minutes and then answered questions from a line of liberals and conservatives that stretched the length of the lecture hall.
Despite the lack of protests, not everyone at the event was respectful of Shapiro’s right to free speech. Chrissy Nelson, a program assistant with Marquette University’s Center for Gender and Sexualities Studies, encouraged people in a Facebook post to register for the free tickets and then not show up, a tactic meant to deny students the chance to see Shapiro speak.
During his talk, Shapiro addressed the controversy, calling Nelson “a professional useless person.”
“She said she got that suggestion from one of the directors of diversity on campus as noted before,” Shapiro said. “A little ironic that the director of diversity wants to ensure that people can’t hear diverse points of view.”
The Facebook post has since been deleted, and Angelique Harris, the director of the center where Nelson is employed, said in an interview that Nelson is being reprimanded.
Marquette University is already facing national criticism for its suspension of Professor John McAdams, who wrote a blog post in 2014 criticizing Cheryl Abbate, then an instructor in the philosophy department, for telling a student he could not defend a position opposing same-sex marriage in her class. The suspension earned Marquette a ranking among the Ten Worst Universities for Free Speech, as determined by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
McAdams has sued for reinstatement and is waiting for Milwaukee County Judge David Hansher to rule on a motion for summary judgment.
Shapiro also addressed a letter by a campus feminist group that asked Marquette President Michael Lovell to cancel his speech. “Apparently some students are upset that I’ve been allowed to speak here during Black History Month,” Shapiro said. “I was unaware that only black people are allowed to speak during Black History Month. That seems, actually, a little racist to me.”
Reading from the letter, Shapiro would interject with biting comments, pointing to where they misstated his positions on issues. “Apparently the people who wrote this letter are not only stupid, they’re quasi-illiterate,” Shapiro said. “They didn’t bother to read anything I’ve ever written, which is always interesting.”
But Shapiro’s main message of the lecture was, “if you live in the United States, society is not victimizing you.”
“This is not to deny that there are individual racists and individual sexists and individual homophobes. Of course there are,” Shapiro said. “But if you live in the freest, most prosperous country on the face of the Earth in human history, you don’t get to complain about class victimization, because it isn’t true.”
Using statistics and humor, Shapiro said racial minorities, homosexuals and women are not being victimized by society. Citing a study at Northwestern University, Shapiro said, “If you’re being told all the time that you’re a victim, that leads to lower grades, less academic motivation [and] less persistence when encountering an academic challenge.”
“When you tell people, falsely, that American society is out to get you, it turns out people give up,” Shapiro said. “If you want people not to give up, you have to say this: your life is in your own hands.”
After Shapiro finished, students were asked to line up to ask questions, with liberals encouraged to go to the front of the line. There were no angry outbursts or name-calling during the question-and-answer period, even from the liberal students asking questions. A number of conservative students took the opportunity to pose for a picture with Shapiro or shake his hand.