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Ben Shapiro‘s Arrival on Campus Sparks Mass Protest

After President Covino rescinds his request that Cal State LA’s YAF branch reschedule Ben Shapiro’s event, protesters fill the U-SU.

Hannah Jacobsen

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Long standing tensions between Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) and Cal State LA opposition came to a boiling point last Thursday, Feb. 25, as hundreds of protesters filled the University-Student Union (U-SU) to its capacity to block the doors to the U-SU theatre, where conservative speaker Ben Shapiro was scheduled to give his presentation “When Diversity Becomes a Problem.”

President Covino initially asked the chairman of Cal State LA’s YAF chapter to reschedule Shapiro’s appearance through email on Monday, Feb. 22. He wrote, “I have decided that it will be best for our campus community if we reschedule Ben Shapiro’s appearance for a later date, so that we can arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity,” according to YAF’s press release.

YAF stated in their press release that Ben Shapiro would hold the event, regardless of President Covino’s approval, in protest to “radical liberal” viewpoint and censoring students who attempt to broadcast alternative views. YAF also released a statement that “The Foundation is prepared to take legal action if the school fails to recognize these student’s rights.”

“Balance at [Cal State LA] only runs one way,” Shapiro said to the Daily Wire. “This event obviously threatens the feelings of precious snowflakes at the university. Tough.”

President Covino responded to YAF and Shapiro’s threat to show up on campus regardless of administrative permission through a campus-wide email sent out only a few hours prior to the scheduled event. He stated that the prior email asking to reschedule the event was simply a “request.”

“I strongly disagree with Mr. Shapiro’s views,” President Covino said. “But if Mr. Shapiro does appear, the University will allow him to speak. We will make every effort to ensure a climate of safety and security.”

Student and faculty protesters did not agree with the President’s decision to grant Ben Shapiro permission to speak. Filling up the lobby and the outside of the U-SU, hundreds of protesters formed themselves into human barriers, blocking the entrances to the theatre with chants of “No hate speech!” and “Racists go home!”

One student protester, a communication major named Brian Young, had arrived to the protest with a rainbow flag to wave in the crowd.

“I’m here to advocate for the beauty of our University, a University of diversity and peace,” Young said. “This group’s message threatens what our University represents, and they cross the line from free speech to hate speech.”

With Shapiro’s supporters chanting “Free Speech Matters” on one side and protesters chanting “No Hate Speech” on the other, the divide between the members of the room seemed to arrive at a question: when does a speaker cross the line from free speech to hate speech?

Jovanny Benitez, a member of Students United to Reach Goals in Education (SURGE), further defined the confusing line between these two terms.

“Today we are standing in solidarity,” Benitez said. “We’re all coming together to say that diversity is not a problem, and it supports so many different views. I’m not saying he doesn’t have the right to free speech or to speak here, but a lot of what he says sounds like hate speech.”

The right to be heard often depends on defining a boundary between acceptable and inacceptable speech. The Ku Klux Klan would not be allowed to speak at Cal State LA (though they’re still rallying in Anaheim). A speaker advocating horrendous moral wrongs, such as child pornography, would never be allowed to speak at Cal State LA. Does Ben Shapiro—a man who denies the existing presence of systemic and subtle racism against people of color in present day society—cross that line?

At a panel discussion held the next day by students and faculty to discuss systemic racism—from the educational system to the prison system—and the conservative view on race,

Dr. Robert Weide, a sociology professor at Cal State LA, claimed that Shapiro’s rhetoric, through his denial of this systemic racism, is hate speech.

“What is this freedom that the people on the right wing talk about?” Weide asked. “Is it the freedom to be educated here in a public university in peace? Is it my freedom to be able to teach here without being threatened? Is it the freedom to live without fear and intimidation? Of course not. The type of freedom that they’re talking about is the freedom to offend, the freedom to disrespect, the freedom to degrade and marginalize other people, the freedom to harass, intimidate, and threaten other people. Ultimately, the freedom that they want is the freedom to exploit, dominate, and control other people. This isn’t freedom at all, this is oppression.”

Shapiro, after himself and a few attendees were escorted into the theatre by police through the back door and elevators, argued that he and his supporters were being oppressed by the protesters, whom he called “rainbow unicorn gumdrop fascists,” and by President Covino and “his thug rule.”

“In America in 2016, you have to use the back door if you want to participate in free speech; you get to block the front door if you’re a member of the left,” Shapiro said as he spoke over the blaring sounds of an alarm. “If this sort of language came from the right against the left, you’d be looking at suspensions or firings. The kid who pulled the fire alarm would be off this campus so fast it would make your head swim. But not you out there, the protesters, those special magical leftist children protected from the consequences of living in the real world with my taxpayer dollars. You get to shut us down with your thug tactics and your nasty, pathetic, evil ideology.”

Shapiro went on to say that there were three kinds of diversity—the diversity of skin color or ethnicity, the diversity of fundamental values, and diversity of viewpoint. He claimed that the first two kinds of diversity, skin color and fundamental values, were “a complete waste of time.”

“The focus on skin color diversity makes people empty-headed and close-minded at the same time. Any problem people have, you blame on your skin color or someone else’s skin color,” Shapiro said. “You’re so focused on retreating like a turtle into this arbitrary group identity based on skin color that you blame all of your problems on someone else. That’s what this term ‘white privilege’ is all about.”

White privilege—in the administration’s reluctant allowance of a speaker who denies the existence of systemic racism—is exactly what protesters were angry about. A #BreakwithASI campaign was spurred over the finance committee’s funding of the event and President Covino’s emailed statement that the event “was funded by the Associated Students, Inc.”

Shapiro’s protesters are further demanding that President Covino resign from his position.

A large crowd of students marched from the U-SU to the eighth floor of the administration office while chanting “Covino, resign.” Protesters staged a sit-in in the hall outside the President’s office for multiple hours.

Cal State LA student Sesley Lewis held a phone conversation with President Covino to speak on behalf of the students, which was posted on the “California Student Union” Facebook page, along with a demand for President Covino’s resignation by Monday.

“I made considerable efforts in prior days to reconfigure this event,” President Covino told Lewis after she accused him of allowing an event that caused outsiders to invade the space of students and cause them emotional and physical harm, “The fact is that he intended to come here today, and my main concern was, in the face of that, creating as safe an atmosphere as we could without undue confrontation.”

While the physical protest is over, discussion of the Shapiro event remains rampant between Cal State LA students through sites such as Facebook’s “CSULA Book Exchange.” Further videos and updates on the situation can be found through the University Times Twitter handle, @CalStateLAUT.

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About the Contributors
Hannah Jacobsen, Staff Reporter

Hannah is an anthropology major in her senior year at Cal State LA She has been a staff reporter for the University Times since September 2015, after finding...

Pablo De La Hoya, Web/Photo Editor

Web/Photo Editor from Spring 2015-Spring 2016


31 Responses to “Ben Shapiro‘s Arrival on Campus Sparks Mass Protest”

  1. Margo Mosly on February 29th, 2016 5:29 pm

    You would think in 2016 that CSULA would protect its exemplary example of institutions that “do practice diversity!”

    Allowing such hateful speech incites racism and diminishes past efforts to exclude it in our society.

    CSU less than 25 years ago was at the forefront of “DEMANDING DIVERSITY”.
    (Note: CSU FRESNO’S Demand Diversity quest for 19 CSU’s).

    Funding of this one-sided debate to negate institutional racism is a debauchery!

    No student or faculty should be placed in fear and ridicule for their quest to receive/crush barriers to the “All American Dream to attain higher education!”

    My son attends this school and called with grave concerns about the protests.


    Let’s keep the high standards of CSU practice of diversity protected lest we retrogress to white privaleged students in attendance only practices again.

    The President of CSULA should not have allowed such a biased, disadvantageous speaker to stifle years of BROWN VS. BOARD OF EDUCATION DESEGREGATION progress.

  2. Hal on March 1st, 2016 1:42 pm

    “Hate speech” is defined by these CSU-LA students as anything that they disagree with and must be physically suppressed. What is next . . . book burning?

    When did California universities become hotbeds of denial of First Amendment rights?

  3. Eric on March 1st, 2016 8:30 pm

    Margo.. what you said is such a lack of thought and understanding statement I had to read it tice to make sure I was reading the right thing…. The students that were placed in Fear were the ones who wanted to her someone talk… And if you think that what was said is really “Hate Speech” then you need to get your head out of the sand.

  4. bob on February 29th, 2016 6:10 pm

    Crossing csula off the list of possible colleges for my children

  5. Pat Moore on February 29th, 2016 6:57 pm

    I am an alumni of Cal State LA and I am very embarrassed about the behavior of the students. What happened to the First Amendment? Freedom of speech? Mr. Shapiro had every right to speak and the University failed to protect him.

  6. Cory on February 29th, 2016 7:10 pm

    The actions of the university students, professors, and administrators is absolutely appalling and disgraceful. I would expect this type of immature and oppressive behavior to occur in Iran, not the United States of America. What an embarrassment to the world.

  7. Deane on February 29th, 2016 7:14 pm

    So infuriating. Keep fighting the good fight, Ben. You make me proud and give me hope for the future.

  8. Jim on February 29th, 2016 7:14 pm

    Hmm, prof. Weide’s comments about what freedom means to the “right wing” ( freedom to offend, disrespect, harrass, intimidate, threaten, etc.) sounds just like the left. No one, singular or plural, are more hate filled and venomous than the liberal dominated left. Prof. Weide, if you want to come face to face with the kind of freedom you claim the “right wing” believes in, just look in the mirror.

  9. Ulysses on February 29th, 2016 7:37 pm

    “Cuando la diversidad se vuelve un problema”, fue una controversial ponencia a cargo del periodista de ultraderecha Ben Shapiro, en la Universidad del Estado de California campus Los Ángeles, el jueves 25 de febrero. Al evento llegaron periodistas, curiosos, simpatizantes de Shapiro y defensores de las libertades e igualdad. Durante la estancia del controversial periodista y egresado de Harvad, se dieron conatos de violencia que fueron controlados por estudiantes, miembros de seguridad y policías que resguardaban el lugar.

    Días antes distintas fraternidades y grupos de estudiantes empezaron a planificar un boicot. Incluso, dentro de las aulas algunos profesores y estudiantes mencionaban tal ponencia que por su solo título sonaba controversial. Las primeras interrogantes que surgieron dentro de los estudiantes fueron las que tenían que ver sobre la existencia de grupos no solo de ultraderecha, sino racistas. En una universidad donde el 60.9% de estudiantes son latinos, 16% asiáticos, 4.2% afroamericanos y solo el 7.6% representan una minoría blanca, el tema de la exclusión pareciera ser un “locutione nullius” es decir, un tema que no existe como fundamento ideológico o pragmático pero sí uno de denuncia histórica dentro y fuera de las aulas.

    Otro de los aspectos que saltaron previo a la conferencia fue sobre quiénes o qué grupo invitó al ponente y qué profesor o profesores estuvieron involucrados. No bastó mucho tiempo para descubrir que existe una organización de estudiantes llamada “Young Americans for Freedom” (YAF).

    El evento programado para las 5 de la tarde, dentro de uno de los auditorios ubicado en el edificio de la Unión de Estudiantes, se vio abarrotado desde temprano por oradores que, en las afueras del mismo, denunciaban acontecimientos históricos donde la exclusión no solo representa retrocesos dentro de las democracias, sino en adición, sufrimiento y muerte. El ambiente estuvo acompañado en todo momento por músicos que realizaban sus performance de manera improvisada y con un sabor transcultural y estudiantes que gritaban consignas a favor y en contra.

    Durante mi deambular observé a estudiantes de otras universidades que deseaban escuchar las alocuciones de Shapiro y gente que no pertenecía a la universidad quienes, embozados, no solo tensaron el ambiente, sino que tomaron por asalto el espacio universitario bloqueando los accesos de entrada y salida del auditorio, violando las garantías constitucionales de libertad de expresión.

    Al final, los ganadores fueron muchos. Ganó Ben Shapiro y la organización Young Americans for Freedom, porque si su intención fue crear ruido, lo lograron. Ganaron los protestantes al tener una presencia real y, aunque muchos no eran estudiantes de la universidad, lograron secuestrar las entradas del auditorio en total impunidad. Ganaron los estudiantes al observar una realidad que aún persiste en una sociedad multicultural donde, un pequeño puñado de individuos aun cree que un territorio tan extenso les es de su propiedad y los “otros” deben de irse.

    Días después el presidente William A. Covino calificó la ponencia de Shapiro como desagradable y ofensiva, sin embargo, según argumenta en un correo masivo enviado a estudiantes, Shapiro y la organización Young Americans for Freedom pudieron realizar su evento bajo las libertades que la Constitución confiere a sus ciudadanos. Aun así, el presidente de la universidad se deslindo de un evento que pudiera manchar su prestigio como coordinador de una universidad pública y con gran diversidad étnica.

  10. Karl on March 1st, 2016 7:05 pm

    muy estupido

  11. Trish on February 29th, 2016 8:56 pm

    Thanks to Obama and the Media, our country is more divided today.

    There should be freedom of speech for all American Citizens, not just the Liberals.

    Shame on all schools who pollute and restrict the “free thought” of students.

    We should not be forced to think only like the “leftist”!!!!!

  12. Jonathan Buttall on February 29th, 2016 9:51 pm

    Speaking as a Progressive, I oppose this protest and University. Freedom of Speech is an absolute and only fascists oppose this. Fascists come in all colors and politics as we see here. A conservative has the same right to speak as a liberal. All tax payers funds must be stopped to this University from State and any other funding. If this University wants to violate the Constitution and act like storm troopers, they can do it without gov’t subsidies. Tuition can be raised many fold to keep this useless fake college open.

  13. Thomas Tillander on February 29th, 2016 10:01 pm

    Franklin and Jefferson would be so appalled by your university. First amendment intents and rights are so violated by this leadership and followship. As a rep to my student government at a public university, I voted to invite and give forum to the heads of the Socialist and Communist parties in the mid 60’s. Many oldsters in the community went crazy BUT, let them speak, then decide. Still a good idea. I’m so glad my kids are 40+ and out. I’m so fearing for my grandkids. This how America will be lost.

  14. Tom Miller on February 29th, 2016 10:25 pm

    How can this professor Weide be allowed to work for your University? He threatens students with violence. If you disagree with him he wants to have fist fights!!!! My children will never attend your school. Im sure you don’t care anyway. He should be fired though.

  15. Lynda Straley on February 29th, 2016 10:33 pm

    How sad that we have gone from 911, when we were a country of people united. To the current administration, a country full of hate, divided.
    Considering if any President, Obama should have been the one to bring us closer together, not widen the chasm.
    How very sad, that President Obama is able to look his children in the eye’s and feel that he has done the right thing for all the citizens of this nation.

  16. Dylan on March 1st, 2016 12:54 am

    “Dr. Robert Weide, a sociology professor at Cal State LA, claimed that Shapiro’s rhetoric, through his denial of this systemic racism, is hate speech.
    “What is this freedom that the people on the right wing talk about?” Weide asked. “Is it the freedom to be educated here in a public university in peace? Is it my freedom to be able to teach here without being threatened? Is it the freedom to live without fear and intimidation? Of course not. The type of freedom that they’re talking about is the freedom to offend, the freedom to disrespect, the freedom to degrade and marginalize other people, the freedom to harass, intimidate, and threaten other people. Ultimately, the freedom that they want is the freedom to exploit, dominate, and control other people. This isn’t freedom at all, this is oppression.”

    Incredibly hypocritical.

    This is the guy who wanted to wrestle people over conflicting ideas, stating “I lift bro”.
    Same guy who condoned ‘macroagressions’ (violence) to counter ‘microagressions’ (speech).

    Hitting people who disagree with you, utter nonsense.

  17. J William Pope on March 1st, 2016 4:21 am

    Professor Weide’s statement is projection and a confession. To “dominate and control other people” is the raison d’être of his chosen field. Sociology has long been a refuge for the most self-righteous, authoritarian, and moralizing impulses in academia.

    Judging from his unhinged actions (tearing down signs, summoning campus security to intimidate his enemies, etc.) Weide himself resembled no less than one of Mussolini’s thugs.

    J William Pope

  18. Chris Phelps on March 1st, 2016 9:06 am

    Dear little children, the problem with your assertion that “hate speech” should not be allowed on campus is who defines hate speech. Once you put someone in the position of censor, you start sliding down that slippery slope. The framers of the constitution recognized that when they asserted “Congress shall make no law … Abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble..”. Who gave you the right to usurp Congress and make the law to decide who can speak what and where, and further intrude on the right of people who were trying to peaceably assemble to hear a speaker? It’s fine to disagree and peaceably protest against what another person says, it’s another thing to take away his/her right to say it. If you do you are nothing more that a fascist or communist trying to control what people think and do.

  19. Eliuth on March 1st, 2016 9:41 am

    Your school system is full of intolerant snowflakes. Instead of engaging in civilized dialogue, your ilk decided to engage in violence and intimidation to shut out the other side. Diversity of opinions stands for ALL opinions, even the ones you do not agree with and even hate. I am neither conservative nor liberal, and the bullish actions taken by the students and staff to boot out free speech are disturbing.

    The administrators should find those responsible for the mayhem caused and punish them. However, seeing as the perception is that the leadership is afraid of its own students, I doubt any action will come of this and your school will continue to be the intolerant laughing stock of public universities.

  20. Cat on March 1st, 2016 9:42 am

    I don’t like what you have to say, therefor you’re like the kkk. How pathetic.

  21. Dr. Necessitor on March 1st, 2016 9:45 am

    The problem is determining who has authority to define “hate speech”. Once you grant someone authority to censor your voice, and ultimately your thoughts, society begins to slide down that slippery slope to totalitarianism. Recognizing that danger, the framers of the Constitution asserted “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble.” Be careful what you wish for.

  22. Robert on March 1st, 2016 10:34 am

    It sounds like President Covino resigning would be a good start to healing this place.

  23. Karl on March 1st, 2016 7:11 pm

    Healing from different opinions? Is this a college or a daycare center?

  24. Chris Phelps on March 1st, 2016 12:12 pm

    Here is the speech;

    Here is the aftermath;

    Now who is doing the “hate” speech and threatening physical violence just because they have a different opinion. Margo, is it really your position that if you cannot win in the arena of ideas and the public square, then you have the right to deny somebody the freedom to speak through threats and intimidation. If it is then your being the fascist who is acting like the totalitarians of the past century.

  25. Preston on March 1st, 2016 12:27 pm

    Do I think that Ben Shapiro is an idiot? Yes. Do I think he’s misguided? Yes. Do I disagree with everything he said about diversity? YES! Does that mean I have every right to censor what he says? Absolutely no! This is disgusting what my fellow students in college are doing right now. He has every right to voice his opinion and what seriously constitutes as hate speech? I think being PC is dumb and you should be able to say what you want and having the ability to criticize others as well. We’ve become a generation who lacks a sense of humor, who are a bunch of weaklings that only care about people’s feelings. If this is how our generation is going to end up, I want no part in it. Liberalism used to be the party to tell it like it is, it’s become the party full of pansies.

  26. Eric on March 1st, 2016 8:33 pm

    Prof Weide said about the speaker and the students who wanted to hear him” The type of freedom that they’re talking about is the freedom to offend, the freedom to disrespect, the freedom to degrade and marginalize other people, the freedom to harass, intimidate, and threaten other people.”

    Does he not realize that that is exactly what he and the student protesters practiced?? It was like he was talking about himself.

  27. Gary Fouse on March 2nd, 2016 5:32 pm

    As an alumnus of CSULA, I am ashamed of what this university has degenerated into. The actions of the protesters was shameful in trying to shut down free speech because they deemed it hateful (which it was not). Violence masquerading as protest has no place on campus.

    And so-called faculty member Robert Weide feels “threatened”? He was the one who acted like a thug.

    As for your feckless president (Covino), he is a pathetic joke who doesn’t know which side he is on. He has no clue about the First Amendment, and he failed in his responsibility to provide adequate security.

    Congratulations, kids. You have embarrassed your school and made it a national laughing stock-as if there was anything funny about shutting down speech with which you disagree.

    Gary Fouse
    Adj teacher
    UC Irvine Ext

  28. CSULA Student on March 2nd, 2016 5:37 pm

    I am happy to see that a majority of the posts on here are in favor of free speech. It upsets me that a majority of my peers are shaken by someone opposing their views.

    this is college—- grow the f*&$ up—– we are not here to agree with everyone, but to acknowledge different view points in the world and learn from them.

    You don’t have to like the guy, you don’t have to agree with him, but it would make much more sense to listen to what he has to say and rebuttal accordingly. If logic is on your side, you have nothing to fear. But resorting to physical violence and shouting repetitive chants at anyone who is trying to start a conversation is ignorant. It gets us no where.

    You have uniformed students getting livid at a situation they have no information on. Students yelling, “racist go home”. . . . uhh the guy is

    I asked over 10 chanting students why the guy was racist. Surprise surprise no one knew wtf they were talking about.

  29. Scott on March 2nd, 2016 9:41 pm

    Radical lefties DO NOT believe in freedom of speech. They only believe in freedom of their speech.
    This alleged professor Weide should have been fired long ago.

  30. Gary Plauche on March 4th, 2016 9:10 am

    why doesn’t someone start a petition to have Weide fired?

  31. Randy Watson on March 10th, 2016 3:56 pm

    “The type of freedom that they’re talking about is the freedom to offend, the freedom to disrespect, the freedom to degrade and marginalize other people, the freedom to harass, intimidate, and threaten other people.”

    Yes yes and yes. You have an absolute RIGHT to offend someone with speech. The left does this EVERY SINGLE DAY. Maybe we should BAN the left from calling Catholic priests pedophiles. Maybe we should BAN the left from calling Southern people rednecks or stupid. We should BAN comedians. We should BAN Bill Maher. We should BAN everything I find offensive.

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