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UBC students call on administration to cancel talk from Ben Shapiro

Last Updated Jun 21, 2018 at 9:12 am PST

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2017 photo, conservative writer Ben Shapiro speaks during the first of several legislative hearings planned to discuss balancing free speech and public safety in Sacramento, Calif. A University of Connecticut Republican student group has invited Shapiro to speak on Jan. 24, 2018, on campus in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A controversial conservative political commentator is coming to the University of British Columbia this October, to take part in a Q&A session hosted by the university’s Free Speech Club.

But there are plenty of people that think the event with Ben Shapiro should not go forward.

Shapiro is known for his controversial comments on topics like, Islam, gender identity, and the conflict between Israel and Palenstine.

It’s why fifth-year student Reid Marcus thinks this talk should not go ahead. He’s written to administration at UBC asking for it to be cancelled.

“I’m not saying there should be legal sanctions against people like Ben Shapiro, I just don’t think the university should give a platform which elevates his image and adds credibility to his arguments.”

But, he says, the university hasn’t been receptive to his concerns.

Angelo Isidorou is the director of the Free Speech Club. He says letting Shapiro speak is pretty much the point of the club. “Let’s give anyone a platform, let’s hear what he has to say and then judge him. We believe that everyone should be allowed to have their moment, to have their say, and to be judged for it.”

The event with Shapiro goes on Halloween at the Chan Centre.

UBC has issued a statement, maintaining that “as a public academic institution, [it places] a paramount value on the free and lawful expression of ideas and view points.”

It adds if anyone has concerns about the content of Shaprio’s comments, they should be reported to the police.

Full UBC statement:

A group of UBC students has invited Ben Shapiro to speak on campus at the Chan Centre this fall. As a public academic institution UBC places a paramount value on the free and lawful expression of ideas and viewpoints. For UBC’s position on this issue please refer to the Vancouver Senate statement on Academic Freedom.

UBC’s commitment to free speech includes student groups and other invited guest speakers using UBC venues such as the Chan Centre. This is the case even where some members of the University community may consider the guest speaker’s ideas, or the way in which they are expressed, to be controversial, or offensive.

With respect to concerns regarding the safety of students, staff, faculty, and members of the public, UBC Campus Security advises the administration on best practices to follow regarding events on campus.

With respect to any concerns someone might have about the content of Mr. Shapiro’s remarks, we note that hate speech is governed by the Criminal Code of Canada and specific concerns about it should therefore be directed to the local RCMP detachment.