Two months after University of New Mexico’s student government approved funding requests to bring two conservative speakers to campus, the sponsoring student groups still have not scheduled the events.
That means UNM College Republicans and the Young Americans for Freedom could lose their $5,000 allocations to host Christina Hoff Sommers and Ben Shapiro respectively, at least for this year.
But that did not stop a small protest on campus Monday, as the Students for Socialism picketed outside the administration building and met with acting president Chaouki Abdallah to request he ban the speakers from campus – something they said Abdallah declined to do.
“Instead of him using his influence to do it, he put the responsibility on students and said we need to go to the organizations who are hosting these speakers and debate with them, and try to get them to not invite these speakers,” Karina Rodgers, co-president of UNM’s Students for Socialism group, said about the group’s conversation with Abdallah. “Instead of him doing his actual job as president of the university and protecting his students, he’s placing it on us.”
Abdallah was not available for comment Monday afternoon, but a spokeswoman said the president encouraged dialogue between groups from opposing viewpoints and noted that free speech is legally protected.
She also referred to UNM’s statement on free speech, which says in part, “While the University may not agree with every speaker’s expressed viewpoints, UNM believes it is imperative to the higher education experience to maintain free speech on our campus, and, over time, provide a variety of viewpoints.”
Marina Herrera, president of the UNM College Republicans and a member of the Young Americans for Freedom group, did not immediately respond to Journal questions about plans for Shapiro, a former Breitbart News editor at large, and Sommers, a conservative think tank scholar who has argued some campus sexual assault studies exaggerate the problem by too broadly defining assault.
While ASUNM has approved funding for their appearances, it’s unclear when, or if, either is coming. A story on The Daily Wire, where Shapiro is editor in chief, indicated UNM’s Students for Socialism was protesting Shapiro and Sommers “even though they have not been invited to speak at the University yet.” Sommers tweeted the same complaint Saturday.
The new debate over free speech comes just months after a UNM visit by the provocative right-wing speaker Milo Yiannopoulos, whose January event drew hundreds of supporters and hundreds of protesters.
ASUNM’s undergraduate student Senate approved $5,000 each for Shapiro and Sommers as part of its standard application process for funding, according to ASUNM spokesman Gabe Gallegos. By law, he added, the student government cannot make funding decisions based on personal opinion about the subject matter.
But Gallegos said the sponsoring groups have not entered into contracts for the events, and without that step, the $10,000 could revert back to the ASUNM general fund for use next year.