Conservative commentator and founder of the Daily Wire website, Ben Shapiro, has sparked controversy across the country because he is unabashedly conservative and often pokes holes in liberal and progressive arguments. Protests have erupted wherever he has spoken, such as at California State University-Los Angeles several years ago.
This time, it was a Christian university, Grand Canyon University, that canceled a student-sponsored event, which included Shapiro speaking to chapter members. The sponsoring group, Young Americans for Freedom (known as YAF), invited Shapiro to speak in December 2018, but Grand Canyon University administrators nixed the event altogether last week. The university is a private, non-profit Christian university located in Phoenix, Arizona. Grand Canyon University is better known for its online course offerings, similar to those of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
The university issued a statement, which attempted to explain why the university canceled the student-sponsored event, but appeared to be much longer than normal press releases and statements. The university said that they agreed with much of Shapiro’s “support for ideals that grow out of a traditional Judeo-Christian values” in addition to “his belief in a free market economy.”
Yet, after public outcry, Grand Canyon University reversed its decision and directly invited Shapiro to speak on-campus, especially after conservatives and Christians alike criticized the cancellation news.
But, the administrators claimed that the cancellation decision “is not a reflection of his ideologies or the values he represents, but rather a desire to focus on opportunities that bring people together.” Or, in other words, Grand Canyon University may have believed that Shapiro’s rhetoric could have been inflammatory, divisive and hurtful to those not in agreement with his views.
The statement then went into the university’s core beliefs, such as its Christian doctrinal foundation, and its ethics statement. After mentioning this, the statement referred to its financial model, which is mostly based on online students, allegedly numbering over 75,000 students in addition to its 20,000 students on-campus. Diversity within its student body was mentioned next, along with highlighting the university’s eleven-year-old tuition freeze that makes the university more affordable and allows for more diversity on-campus. The statement also dove into its community outreach efforts and evangelizing efforts abroad in locations such as the Asian continent.
Then, the university’s statement finally addressed the reason behind cancelling Shapiro’s speaking event. It pivoted to how today “we live in a very divided America” and the “current high volume of rhetoric has not led to community-building or problem-solving.” In short, Grand Canyon University blamed divisive political divisions for forcing them to cancel Shapiro’s speech and after being criticized in public, reversed their decision and invited Shapiro to speak at the university.