Con: UCONN Hosts Controversial Speakers

The past few years have been terrifying. Punctuated with tearful calls from friends and family informing me of more hate-fueled acts, and tweets from our President filled with the same ignorant, hate filled rhetoric. So, when on March 15, 2019, I learned about the Christchurch shooting, I was not surprised.

These were two consecutive attacks at New Zealand mosques committed during Friday prayer. The gunman live-streamed the first attack on Facebook Live. Fifty people are dead. The Christchurch gunman said in a manifesto that this was an act of ethnic cleansing, inspired by American alt-right propaganda. He noted that certain people he found most inspirational, including Candace Owens, a millennial speaker focused on anti-muslim and anti-immigration rhetoric.

The University of Connecticut recently hosted Candace Owens and Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, a conservative non-profit organization, to speak at an event titled “Campus Clash.” This is not the first time the state school has drawn controversy over their choice of campus speakers. In 2017, UCONN hosted a different alt-right speaker whose appearance resulted in a physical confrontation between the speaker and an attendee.

My main problem rests with the underlying message colleges like UCONN put out when they host speakers whose platforms focus on the hate and intolerance.

Freedom of speech is important. As an aspiring journalist, I believe this, but I also believe in an institutions’ right to choose who to invite to speak.

UCONN made a conscious choice to allow a woman whose name was cited for inspiration by New Zealand’s deadliest shooter, to come spread her message of hate to students.

How must it feel for non-white UCONN students to see all those people fill an auditorium to listen to two people talk about how people who look like them are dangerous, bad, and responsible for our country’s downfall? How are they supposed to feel safe on their campus? What if this was someone coming to talk about why they think the Holocaust was a good thing? Why is this okay and that is not? Will we have to wait until millions of Muslims are dead to see change?

We cannot change the minds of UCONN, or prevent them from allowing Owens and Kirk to speak. What we can do is combat their actions by continuing to host speakers who promote equality and love, instead of hate. That includes speakers such as the first African-American chief justice of Connecticut who spoke at the University of New Haven in February, or any of the numerous speakers we had during women’s history month. Finally, to the students at UCONN who may feel unsafe due to recent actions, you are welcome here.