James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

  • Archives

  • March 2019
    S M T W T F S
  • Categories

  • Subscribe

Ben Shapiro and Spokane

Posted by James McPherson on March 14, 2019

Image result for ben shapiro daily wireClose on the heels of a decision by Young America’s Foundation to keep conservative Ben Shapiro from speaking at Gonzaga University, the student government at Spokane’s other university (where I spent most of my academic career), has voted to block a student club from bringing Shapiro to campus.
For the record, despite my liberal bent and the fact that I’ve personally been criticized by his online publication, The Daily Wire, I disagree with the decision to prohibit a Whitworth University club from bringing in  the shallow-thinking Shapiro. He wouldn’t be on my list of people of favored speakers, but I would simply skip his speech.
Regardless, the witless whining by some conservatives that this split student decision means Whitworth has become a liberal bastion out to kill conservative speech demonstrates that those complainers are more ignorant than student leaders on both sides of the issue.
Note that the decision was made by students who were elected by other students to make such decisions. And as Trump supporters keep pointing out, “elections have consequences.” (One difference between Whitworth and the presidential election, of course: Student leaders at Whitworth actually won the popular vote.)
During my time at Whitworth the university granted an honorary award to Franklin Graham and in recent years has hosted talks by David Brooks, Dinesh D’Souza, Jack Kemp, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and George Will, among others. I haven’t kept count, but I suspect that political conservatives have outnumbered liberals, at least among nationally known speakers.
And of course a couple of years ago the university also cut its loose ties with Planned Parenthood — hardly a liberal decision.
Still, the university also hosted “The Vagina Monologues” before Gonzaga did, reflecting the fact that with contentious issues Whitworth has done its best to act like a university should, exposing students to a range of perspectives. I’m proud to have spent most of my academic career there.
Simply put, in this case I disagree with the student decision to try to bring in Shapiro, and I disagree with the student decision to block him. But I strongly support letting students make what I consider to be wrong decisions, assuming those decisions are thoughtfully made, don’t harm others, and contribute to a meaningful learning experience for the students involved.
Incidentally, that was also my philosophy during the more than 15 years I spent as a student newspaper adviser, to the occasional dismay of some administrators, trustees, my wife, and others — none of whom ever made a serious attempt to censor the publication. As students wrote in a surprise editorial about my retirement: “Jim allows The Whitworthian to function as a true student newspaper, offering assistance when the paper needs it, but emphasizing student ownership. … The editors may have made mistakes, but with Jim’s hands-off style, editors and writers were allowed to understand the ramifications of their mistakes and learn how to manage the aftermath.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: