Free Speech Shutdown: Conservative UW-Madison Student Reacts to Petition

November 16, 2016

By Tyler Brandt
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute

After the Ben Shaprio lecture, the campus left decided that shouting down a speaker wasn’t quite enough. To take it even further they are now trying to label the campus conservative group Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) as a hate group.

They fling egregious claims such as their safety being threatened due to the presence of YAF on this campus. They claim that the mere presence of Shapiro on the campus caused them to feel betrayed and unwelcome.

Never before have I seen such a clear example of targeted defamation to advance a political agenda. The baseless claims in combination with hypersensitive rhetoric is a way for the campus left to isolate themselves from any sort of dissenting opinion. They want to have the majority voice on campus and are using any tactic viable to silence conservatives.

It’s sad how they don’t need to be factual or accurate in the slightest to have a majority voice on campus. This is straight defamation.

I venture to say 100 percent of what is stated in the petition is completely untrue. It is riddled with baseless claims in attempt to disparage YAF. If you need further proof of this, just consider that this is the same group of people who shouted down Shapiro telling him that he should be wearing a Swastika. The glaring irony is that Shapiro is Jewish. In fact, Shapiro was the number one figure on the Anti Defamation League’s list of most discriminated people. This group of people is notoriously known for not doing their homework as well as playing fast and loose with the facts. They have the magical ability to make up anything they want and claim it as true.

At the end of the day this is just sad. Not only does it unfairly target conservatives for voicing their opinion on a liberal campus, it represents the lack of tolerance for political discourse. When we have a generation of kids being taught that it is acceptable to mislabel, defame, and shut down dissenting groups we are in for a rough political future.

Standing in line with the tradition of open academic discourse, I really hope that UW-Madison refuses to cave in to these leftist bullies and stands up for free speech. Conservatives already constitute a minority opinion on campus and I genuinely believe a lot of them are afraid to stand up for what they believe. Many students keep their opinions quiet because they know the danger it could have to their image as a student on a traditionally liberal campus. By recognizing YAF and other groups’ right to free speech this could set the tempo for a revitalization in conservative opinion on campus.

UW-Madison should recognize that this is no more than a political stunt to shut down conservative voices on campus. If the administration truly believes in the future of UW as fostering academic discourse, they will stand with conservative groups right to free speech. By refusing to accept this childish petition UW-Madison will demonstrate themselves as truly concerned with free speech and open debate. If they were to accept this position it would show how a couple of immature cry babies can coercively shut down differing opinions. It would be a dangerous precedent to set and would also harm the university’s image.

The goal of a college education is to foster a diverse environment with a broad range of opinions and ideas. Students should be able to hear opinions they disagree with and rebut appropriately. If one side of a debate is disallowed it leaves an imbalance and will harm the academic excellence that UW-Madison strives to provide. Without hearing altering opinions nobody grows or learns. I hope that UW will stand strong in their tradition of open discourse and allow free speech to prosper for all.

Tyler Brandt is vice president of the UW-Madison chapter of Young Americans for Liberty.