Grand Canyon University in Phoenix has canceled an event with Jewish conservative firebrand Ben Shapiro, citing the school’s commitment to promoting inclusion and unity on campus at a time when political divisions run deep.
The private Christian university issued a statement Friday stating that while it supports “many of the things” Mr. Shapiro speaks about, including the promotion of “traditional Judeo-Christian values and his belief in a free market economy,” the decision to cancel Mr. Shapiro’s appearance was made due to the “high volume of rhetoric” taking over public discourse.
“Our decision to cancel Shapiro’s speaking engagement is not a reflection of his ideologies or the values he represents, but rather a desire to focus on opportunities that bring people together,” GSU said in a statement. “Today, we live in a very divided America. The current high volume of rhetoric has not led to community-building or problem-solving. Grand Canyon University, rather than engage in this type of rhetoric, has instead worked to bring people together and build partnerships to renovate our inner-city community.
“Based on the response we have received from some within the Grand Canyon community regarding the decision involving such high-profile speakers as Ben Shapiro, we have obviously disappointed and offended some of you,” the statement continued. “We know that if we had made a different decision, we would have disappointed and offended others within the same community. It was not our intent to disappoint or offend anyone. It was, rather, to use our position as a Christian university to bring unity to a community that sits amidst a country that is extremely divided and can’t seem to find a path forward toward unity.”
The school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter, which organized Mr. Shapiro’s event, called the cancellation “deeply disappointing” and “absurd,” announcing that they would be seeking an immediate reversal.
“By caving to an unseen mob and ignoring the popularity of Shapiro among its student body, Grand Canyon University just played itself and deserves whatever negative response this brings,” YAF spokesman Spencer Brown said in a statement. “GCU has abandoned the sentiment of its own proclaimed values, deluded itself into acting like the liberal campuses it claims to differ from, and blindly accepted the Left’s ludicrous argument that Shapiro’s presence somehow damages students, campuses, or debate.”
GCU’s decision sparked a torrent of conservative backlash on social media.
Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 3, 2019
I’m libertarian on immigration in a non-welfare, non-criminal, non-citizenship scenario, so not sure what the objection would be https://t.co/RSEtBrcY4J— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 3, 2019
The job of a university is not to exclusively invite speakers who “bring people together” (whoever that is in 2019). It’s to challenge young minds w/ideas different from their own & help them think critically. Which makes them stronger&smarter.GCU blew it. https://t.co/RY1myNT295— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) February 4, 2019
Read this entire statement. It’s strangely self-congratulatory and utterly puzzling. De-platforming unites no one. Fear of debate signals a lack of confidence in your institution and your ideals. Christian schools should not be so timid. https://t.co/YembW4lHPu— David French (@DavidAFrench) February 3, 2019
Cowards with eloquent rationalizations are still cowards. https://t.co/7Md60M3Nbd— Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) February 3, 2019
@gcu save the propaganda. Your statement uninviting @benshapiro from speaking at your “Christian institution” mocks the very “Christian values” you claim to support. Even Christ (you remember him) engaged the Pharisees in debate (John 8:30-47 ). #bogushttps://t.co/X3akePqF53— Michael Steele (@MichaelSteele) February 3, 2019
Extremely disappointed w/ @gcu where I have appeared many times. @my_ccu would never shutter speech this way. Nor @Hillsdale. It is a symptom of a deep illness within the Administration and a warning to would be applicants/parents. Censorship incompatible w/ education. https://t.co/8qJV6EYLOh— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) February 3, 2019
Shorter @gcu: we are so united we’re going to deny some a speaker because we can’t be united if some students choose to hear @benshapiro. Sounds like @gcu’s unity is shallow and not gospel filled. https://t.co/YZRjIl67xX— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) February 3, 2019
This isn’t the first time a Christian university has blocked Mr. Shapiro from appearing on campus. In November, Gonzaga University in Washington State rejected a proposal to host the conservative speaker, citing the school’s Christian mission to “stand in solidarity” with marginalized communities and to protect students and staff from a hostile campus environment.
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