The student government at the University of Central Florida voted Thursday evening to pass a funding bill for a conservative group’s upcoming Ben Shapiro lecture, after weeks of leftist pressure.
The bill, which passed in a vote of 25-15-2, was voted on after two hours of contentious debate from leftist and conservative students during the public comment portion of the senate session.
Despite the student organization meeting all of the requirements for funding, the bill was voted “unfavorably” last week during the Senate meeting, which set the stage for a fight for free speech on UCF’s campus during tonight’s session and final reading of the bill.
One conservative student, Nathan Schiffer, urged the senators to do their job, and ignore any political biases. “Listen to ALL voices, not just the loudest ones,” he said. “Are we going to set precedent now that given loud enough opposition, student organizations can be punished and not receive funding?”
Several students and senators warned the senate about Young America’s Foundation’s recent win in a lawsuit against the University of Florida, which overturned the school’s unconstitutional and discriminatory senate funding policies for student groups.
“We simply want to exercise our right to bring a conservative speaker to campus, said Otniel Delgado, a student at UCF. “We are not trying to attack you or your identity, we just want to engage in a healthy ideological debate.”
Delgado later told YAF that he supports Shapiro coming to campus because he wants Shapiro to “stir conservative curiosity in students who may be afraid to admit their views.” He added that he developed his conservative ideas because of Shapiro, and that “at the end if the day, I want him to help spark debate here on campus.”
Several leftist students promised to protest YAF’s Shapiro event, claiming that if the bill passes, “you will see me and my friends with protest signs on March 23rd.”
Despite leftist protests, conservative ideas won tonight at the University of Central Florida. “I’m standing up here for all those who are scared to say they’re conservative and may not be able to come up here and express how they feel, because of the backlash they may face from other students or even their own friends,” said Jennifer Sell, a supporter of the bill.
Didi Malka, the vice-chairman of the conservative group hosting Shapiro, expressed his gratitude to the UCF senate. “We are so thankful to the UCF senators who did not let their biases come in the way of intellectual diversity,” Malka told YAF. “We are honored to receive these funds and will work hard to make this event as successful as it can be.”
Shapiro will speak at four campuses this spring through YAF’s Fred Allen Lecture Series. For more updates on his other campus lectures, visit YAF.org/events.