After placing in Young America’s Foundation’s (YAF) runner-up list of universities to host political commentator Ben Shapiro last year, Augustana Republicans plan on reapplying to bring Shapiro to campus next semester.
The effort is preceded by a history of resistance from part of the student body to have Shapiro as a speaker because of perceived controversial comments and funding complications.
Last year, Augustana Republicans asked ASA for $5,000 to help fund the $20,000 fee, $15,000 of which were going to be covered by YAF and money the club raised throughout the year. ASA allocated $3,000 and suggested administration to cover the remaining $2,000. However, the club is hesitant to ask for student funding in this year’s application, looking instead for outside donors.
“We may not ask for ASA funding again because that was just a giant hassle,” said Corey Albrecht, president of Augustana Republicans. “It’s not out of the question, but it’s also possible that we won’t.”
The proposal to bring Shapiro and its entailing opposition sparked up conversations amongst administration officials too.
Dean of Students Mark Blackburn said a task force made up of faculty and administration members in collaboration with students to revise the university’s speaker policy is in the making. Blackburn hopes to begin the revision process this semester. In addition to reviewing the existing policy, the task force will put into consideration any prospective speaker and have a vote on whether their rhetoric presents an opportunity for dialogue.
Albrecht and the Republicans plan to hold conversations with members of the Augustana community and student organizations to ease tensions on campus before they reapply to YAF.
“We’re hoping we can calm political polarization a little bit before spring, but when it comes down to it, we can only do so much,” Albrecht said. “It’s hard for us to change people’s minds because, ultimately, they need to do the accepting of allowing people in to speak and allowing thoughts to be challenged. We’re not saying, by any means, that they have to come over to the conservative side. We do expect them to come in with an open mind and not just listen to [the speakers] but actually think ‘does that challenge something that I currently believe in a logical way?”
The club will begin the application process in late November.
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