Photo by Genevieve Humphreys.
The Trinity chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT), formerly known as Tigers for Liberty (TFL), plans to bring multiple speakers to campus this semester.
As the main event of the semester, YCT invited Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of the National Review and columnist for the Los Angeles Times, to speak in Laurie Auditorium on April 24.
“In the past, my predecessors have sought out people who I think intentionally stoked controversy. I’m not a fan of Milo Yiannopoulos. I am a fan of Dinesh D’Souza, although he is more intentionally controversial than I think most intellectuals would be, and I was thinking it might be nice to try somebody who’s just a little more peaceful, but still really substantially conservative in principle,” said Isaiah Mitchell, chairman of YCT. “That’s Jonah Goldberg. He’s mainly a writer. He’s got good name recognition. He’s perfectly poised for educational purposes because I know that he has valuable things to say in terms of free speech and the university, but a lot of people see him as a blank slate.”
According to Mitchell, Goldberg will focus his talk on the value of western education and free speech on campus. Mitchell sees this as an especially pertinent issue.
“There’s a growing demand that I hear more and more in the student body for the regulation of free speech, especially the kinds of things that we do. I wanted to bring a speaker who would address that in such a way that people would have the best chance of listening,” Mitchell said.
On Feb. 6, SGA approved $5,000 from the Student Activity Fund (SAF) to go towards Goldberg’s $15,000 honorarium. The remaining $10,000 will be funded by the Young America’s Foundation (YAF), who also helped YCT (then TFL) bring Dinesh D’Souza to campus in spring 2017.
“[YAF] help out a lot of clubs like ours around the country. They’re the ones organizing this. They’re how we can get in touch with Jonah Goldberg, even though we are lowly college students, so that’s what they do,” Mitchell said. “They help organize these kinds of events. They are probably going to help foot the bill, as they’ve offered to do, so when Jonah Goldberg speaks, there’s going to be a big wall with their logo on it behind him, just like with Dinesh D’Souza.”
SGA president Ty Tinker, senior, explained why Goldberg’s honorarium was an appropriate use of the SAF.
“All we can decide is: is the event going to be safe? Is the event meant to spark discussion? Is it for the community, or is it meant to rile people up and get headline news?” Tinker said. “Those are the things that we kind of watch out for. We don’t police what kind of speakers come to campus. Furthermore, $5,000 is not very high as far as speakers go. They were able to raise $10,000 outside of SGA, and we always appreciate that, regardless where it comes from.”
First-year senator Ben Falcon was the only senator to oppose fully funding YCT’s request.
“I just felt that YCT was not fully prepared, and I just didn’t see it being something that they could logistically put together because they also didn’t take into account the police department needing to be present at the event,” Falcon said. “As long as that speaker doesn’t contradict with the university values of having someone that’s not just here to promote themselves, I would wholeheartedly support it, as long as it’s financially feasible and something that I actually see materializing.”
TUPD officers would need to be hired at a rate of $50 per officer per hour, but the necessity of their presence will not be determined until the event is labeled as “elevated risk” and has gone through the Event Review Committee (ERC). Typically, this will not occur until less than a month before the event. According to Shannon Twumasi, coordinator for student programs within Student Involvement, due to the elevated risk of a high profile speaker, the event will most likely go before the ERC. The ERC is made up of employees from offices such as Student Involvement and Risk Management, as well as TUPD.
“With a big name, we usually send that to the ERC, just so we can have more eyes on the event and make sure we are, you know, sending the right contract to whoever is coming to campus, or making sure that TUPD is involved,” Twumasi said. “The goal is to always say yes, but we also want to make sure that we are keeping the campus safe and the students safe, especially when we are having outside parties come to campus.”
Twumasi also addressed TUPD presence.
“[TUPD] will suggest how many officers they think are necessary for that event,” Twumasi said. “And we work with the student organization, so if a student organization really wants to put an event on, and they don’t have enough money, we’ll work with students for that cost, but ultimately it is the responsibility of the student organization to pay for TUPD presence.”
Mitchell hopes that Goldberg does not cause too much trouble.
“Anytime we put on an event, there’s going to be a backlash because that’s just the nature of the campus and its make up, but I think we can still do our best to try and minimize how mad people get, as much as that is in our control. Jonah Goldberg is a little more peaceful intellectual, but he is still a rigorous defender of free speech. I am trying to extinguish the fire with Jonah Goldberg,” Mitchell said.
Goldberg isn’t the only speaker YCT will bring to campus. Already this year, YCT hosted Jonathan Dunn, a radio host for The Blaze, on Monday, Feb. 18, to speak on American exceptionalism, and on March 19, the group will bring Bob Fu, founder of ChinaAid, a non-profit organization that provides legal help to Christians in China.
Mitchell explained that the group chose to bring Dunn and Fu because of an interest in international politics. For Dunn, the interest was in the distinction of political divides.
“There’s a particular temptation among the younger generation of all political leanings — a tendency to frame the political divide in America the same way they frame it in Europe, between left and right in the sense of nationalism versus globalism. And in America, it’s a little bit different in that way. Our political divide is mainly between Jefferson and Hamilton, between more and less government, and that’s one thing that’s unique about our country,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell also detailed why Fu could be relevant to the entire campus, though his lecture will focus on his experience illegally preaching Evangelism in communist China.
“He’s banned from China and the communist government hates him, so naturally we like him, and he’s going to come speak to us about what it’s like to actually live under communist rule in China,” Mitchell said. “When we had our fortune cookie event, we found that a lot of people were readily willing to defend the communist government of China, which was surprising to us. We didn’t expect so much backlash from that, and so we thought it would be nice to actually have somebody who experienced it firsthand come and speak.”
For more information about future YCT events, email Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Class of 2020 | Major: English and Computer Science | Minor: Economics