Conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro will speak at Ohio State on Tuesday. The event is hosted by the Ohio State chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative organization for college students.
The event is part of the Fred Allen Lecture Series, a national college lecture tour that aims to bring conservative ideas to college students. Ohio State is one of six universities that Shapiro will visit during this tour, selected from more than 1,500 that applied.
Shapiro is known for his work as a conservative political personality. From 2012 to 2016, he served as the editor-in-chief for the conservative media site, Breitbart, and currently serves as the editor-in-chief for The Daily Wire, a conservative news and commentary website he founded. Shapiro is also known for frequently speaking at college campuses across the nation and engaging students in extensive question-and-answer sessions.
Elle Lamb, Ohio State YAF chair and a third-year in marketing, said this event is an opportunity to disseminate conservative views to students on both sides of the political spectrum, for Shapiro gets “a lot of attention.”
“My goal on such a big campus is to reach everybody,” Lamb said. “Our mission is to get people to create discussion, let people hear what conservative ideas actually are, rather than through the biased perspective of their professors, their liberal professors or the media.”
While popular among conservative audiences, Shapiro’s right-wing views have been a subject of criticism and controversy. Due to this, a couple of Columbus-based organizations are planning to oppose the event.
Ohio State’s chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists will host a table outside of the lecture venue from 6 to 9 p.m. to inform individuals of its “Fight for 15 Campaign,” an initiative to raise the campus minimum wage to $15. They plan to promote this idea, rather than only speak out against Shapiro’s views, Nathan Mundo, YDS member and second-year in chemical engineering, said.
“The reason we chose to do this instead of protesting him is because we feel that it’s better to counter bad ideas with good ideas,” Mundo said. “I think it’s very important to make sure people know that we don’t want him to not talk. We don’t want to just make the other side shut up. We want a conversation so that people can come to the ideas the right way.”
The Columbus Anti-Racist Action group also plans to take action against Shapiro, but in the form of a direct protest.
“If these people are allowed to have a positive experience at Tuesday night’s event you had better believe that there will be an immediate uptick in the racist attacks we see every day on the news,” a Columbus Anti-Racist Action flyer stated. “We are inviting people to join us at 6:30 on the dead end of 14th Street at High. From there we will march to confront the bigot fest in the performance hall of the Ohio Union.”
According to an article featured on the Young America’s Foundation website, the website for the conservative organization, the successful planning of the event has been difficult. The article claimed that, “university administrators have inexplicably and inexcusably carried out a sustained effort to minimize the impact of OSU Young Americans for Freedom’s breakthrough lecture with the number one conservative speaker in America.”
While the article lists a number of ways Ohio State has made the event’s execution difficult, all issues have been resolved except for the problem of security fees. Both the article and Lamb claim that Ohio State has charged $2,064 for security personnel and $2,800 for metal detectors.
In response to these claims, Ben Johnson, an Ohio State spokesman, said the university does not hamper events based on content and that Ohio State has worked directly with Shapiro’s security team to meet the team’s requirements.
“The Ohio State University is a place for discussion and debate of diverse viewpoints … Ohio State never makes decisions based on the content of speech,” Johnson said. “Ohio State has worked directly with the sponsoring student organization and the speaker’s security team to determine the location and set-up, including security needs, for this event. Many of the security measures, including metal detectors, were required by the speaker’s security team, not by Ohio State.”
Shapiro will speak at the Performance Hall of the Ohio Union at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.