As reported last week, the Colgate College Republicans invited conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro to campus. Reaction to this news was swift, and mostly negative. For example, within hours of the news, several professors and students began to organize protests against Shapiro in order to undermine and discredit his arrival. But contrary to majority thought, it is in our best interests to welcome Shapiro to campus and listen to him with an open mind.
According to The New York Times, Secretary Hillary Clinton received over 70 percent of the vote in the precinct that encompasses Colgate University. An obvious conclusion: Colgate University is much more liberal than our country as a whole. On the other hand, Shapiro has demonstrated that he is much more conservative than our country as a whole, as seen in his desires to privatize Social Security and criminalize abortion. Thus, there is a large ideology gap between Shapiro and Colgate University. Nevertheless, regardless of political differences, I believe that an overwhelming majority of Americans want our differences to be addressed. They do not like the trend of disunification and tribal politics that is increasing its grip on our political institutions. They do not like red and blue America disagreeing over everything, including whether or not to listen to Taylor Swift or watch NFL games.
So the question remains: how do we overcome our differences? Do we overcome them by retreating to our tribal corners and echo-chambers? Do we overcome them by not offering the floor to those who disagree with us? I think not. We overcome them through intellectual debate, by fostering discussion between political opposites and by challenging the status quo. In this way, Shapiro’s presence on campus would be an important step to help solve our country’s differences. By offering Colgate University students the opportunity to question and interrogate Shapiro’s opinions, and vice versa, we may actually make progress for our country. We may actually be able to strengthen our bonds as Americans, increase our respect for one another and find common ground on issues. If any common ground remains in America, how would we ever know if we refuse to engage with the other side?
Another important reason to welcome Shapiro to campus concerns the reputation of Colgate. One of the most embarrassing characteristics of the modern-day university lies in its intolerance of free speech and diversity of thought. According to the publication Inside Higher Ed, Shapiro himself recently was forced to cancel a speech at California State University Los Angeles. This crackdown on free speech at the universities has justifiably been criticized by many individuals, including Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz. Therefore, we as a Colgate community have a choice to make. Do we want to shut down Ben Shapiro and earn the label of a university that limits intellectual diversity? Or do we want to welcome him and send the message that we are a university where the First Amendment is alive and well? I hope we choose the latter.
Contact Anthony Palazzola at [email protected]