UConn to review planned speech by conservative pundit Ben Shapiro

The speech comes two months after an appearance by another right-wing figure led to arrests.

Ben Shapiro, an influential and young conservative pundit, in Salt Lake City, Utah., Sept. 28, 2017. Shapiro believes that Donald Trump’s election win stemmed not from his own political ideology, but from his anti-left attacks. “He was slapping people on the left and people on the right went, ‘Yeah, those people need to be slapped!’ ” (Kim Raff/The New York Times)
Ben Shapiro, an influential and young conservative pundit, in Salt Lake City, Utah. –Kim Raff / The New York Times

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — The University of Connecticut is reviewing plans by a Republican student group to bring in a well-known conservative speaker, two months after a speech by another right-wing pundit led to the arrests of him and a protester.

UConn’s College Republicans are again sponsoring the talk, this time by Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of conservative news and commentary site The Daily Wire, whose appearance at the University of California, Berkeley in the fall sparked protests.

The College Republicans brought conservative commentator Lucian Wintrich to UConn in November for a speech titled “It’s OK To Be White.”

Wintrich, the White House correspondent for the right-wing blog Gateway Pundit, was arrested after grabbing a protester who took his notes from the podium. Charges against Wintrich were dropped. The protester, 33-year-old Catherine Gregory, was charged with misdemeanor larceny and disorderly conduct.

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University President Susan Herbst implemented new rules after that requiring a review of events that could potentially pose a safety risk to campus.

“Speech and safety do not conflict with each other, and we do not have to choose between them,” she wrote in an email announcing the new rules. “Instead, we must do all we can do to ensure that both are able to exist simultaneously on our campuses at all times.”

A review of the planned Shapiro appearance will be the first since the Wintrich speech. It will bring together police, facilities, communications and other university officials along with the student organization to make sure the appearance goes smoothly, said school spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz.

The school’s intention is to facilitate the speech, not to prevent it, she said.

“We don’t regulate speeches based on content,” she said. “This is purely to make sure that it is safe, secure and protects everyone’s rights.”

The speech is tentatively planned for a 400-person room lecture hall Jan. 24.

The review will include issues on security, whether the speech should be opened to the general public and whether it should be in a lecture hall or a location with a stage that could separate the speaker from the audience.

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The College Republicans, in a text message, said they are not anticipating any problems.

“As of right now, we have faced no threats or opposition to Mr. Shapiro coming on the 24th,” the group said. “If that changes as we get closer to the event, we will continue supporting Mr. Shapiro’s right to speak and our right as an organization to bring him to UConn.”

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