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The New Guard

Why I’m Fighting to Bring A YAF Speaker to My Christian (But Not Conservative) College Campus

By

Gabriel Olsen, Westmont College

April 3, 2024

While most would naturally expect that bringing a conservative speaker to a Christian university would be a relatively easy undertaking, I have found that precisely the opposite is true.

I am a student leader at Westmont College, where Seth Gruber, a Christian, pro-life advocate, and a voice I deeply respect, has been denied the opportunity to speak. As president of the largest club on campus, the conservative club, I’ve been at the forefront of trying to bring Seth to our college this year and have learned that previous attempts by the club were also unsuccessful. Seth, who not only graduated from Westmont but also founded our longstanding Students for Life club, has been turned away because, as I was told, “he’s too critical of Westmont.” I was also told “there is no way he will be allowed to come speak.”

While Westmont, as a private institution, does have the legal right to deny speakers, this decision raises some important questions. Why would a notable alumus who wants to contribute to his alma mater’s community face such resistance?

A significant part of the problem lies in the fact that Westmont employs countless professors who are openly supportive of infanticide, without the college officially taking a stance on the issue of abortion. In my role as club president, I’ve run into wall after wall trying to organize events or bring in speakers—not just Seth. Our club the fall of 2023 attempted to show a famous film on transgenderism, produced by a conservative activist. However, upon months of delay and over several meetings, we were only allowed to show the film to our club members, in a private meeting, with no advertising or promotion allowed. One of the main reasons for showing the film was so that students from across the political spectrum could hear a perspective about gender that isn’t heard on campus, in class, or in our culture. However, we were told by administration that the film portrays a “lightening rod issue” in a “disrespectful manner” and Westmont does not allow “lightening rod issues” to be campus wide events where anyone can attend. When asking why that is the Westmont’s policy (which is nowhere to be found online or in an official way) we were told it relates to alumni, parents, and donors, and the school doesn’t want to risk losing money over a controversy on campus. In addition, when I questioned how this policy came to be and what I can do to improve it, I was yelled at face to face by an administration member, but then quickly complimented on my “persistence” by the same individual. Truth, fairness, respect and freedom of speech apparently did not form Westmont’s policy, rather financial interest and the fear of controversy do.

The aim was to bring a different perspective on gender to the campus—a perspective that’s often missing from classroom discussions and our culture. Yet, we were blocked by the administration, citing concerns over controversy and potential backlash from alumni, parents, and donors.

My time at Westmont has also been marked by what feels like a push towards progressive ideologies, with classes and chapel sessions often echoing themes of transgender rights, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and social justice narratives that lean heavily into race and Marxist theories. A telling moment was when Lila Rose spoke at a chapel, and nearly half the audience walked out in protest against her views, later prompting an apology from the administration for not foreseeing the offense her presence would cause.

Despite these challenges, I believe in Westmont’s potential to be a place where truth, fairness, and respect are not just ideals but practices. It can be an institution that stands against the current of liberal indoctrination that’s prevalent in higher education, especially significant for a Christian college. 

Although my experiences—and those of other conservatives here—suggest we’re not there yet, I’m hopeful for what Westmont can become. Allowing speakers like Seth Gruber, promoting a diversity of thought through film screenings, and being mindful of who we admit and hire aren’t outrageous asks. 

They’re steps toward ensuring that conservative voices aren’t just sidelined but are part of the vibrant dialogue that shapes our community. In a state and educational system where conservative perspectives often feel drowned out. We just want a fair chance to be heard. Conservatives in the state of California and in higher education are ever increasingly being silenced, but all I would ask for is the chance to be given a voice.

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