Context: On Monday, March 12, 2018, the Minnesota Daily published a Letter to the Editor from a member of Students for a Democratic Society. The letter called for the Student Services Fees Committee to defund all conservative groups. CFACT emailed the following letter to the Daily the night of the 12th but the Minnesota Daily did not publish it online or in print.
A response to the SDS letter calling for defunding of Conservative Groups
This is a plea to consider the ridiculousness of the call for Student Services Fees to defund conservative groups. To begin, this is illegal. The fees committee is part of a public university and therefore required to be viewpoint neutral when allocating fees to student organizations on campus. They can’t fund some student groups that advocate for leftist causes, which they currently do, and then refuse to fund groups that advocate for conservative ideas. This will not happen as long as the university has a General Council and the First Amendment exists, but, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend it is possible because the best way to defeat bad ideas is with logical arguments, not censorship.
In this case, Students for a Democratic Society is not arguing to get rid of student service fees, which can be argued rationally. Instead, they are arguing for the fees committee to be an activist organization that allocates money to groups that promote leftist causes. One argument that was put forth was that the conservative groups would still be able to operate if they were not given student fees. The same could be argued of fees funded leftist groups.
If conservative groups were defunded, students would certainly lose access to certain viewpoints and discussions. During the 2016 cycle, ninety-seven percent of all federal campaign contributions from University of Minnesota employees went to Democrats or Democrat-affiliated groups, so students certainly are not exposed to conservative viewpoints in the classroom. Student groups fill that void by bringing in conservative speakers. Students pay a lot of money into the fees fund so we are particularly disappointed when we have to turn 500 students away from these opportunities as we did when we were refused access to Wiley Hall to host Ben Shapiro.
The mentioned conservative and libertarian groups do not agree on all issues but these groups are certainly the biggest advocates of free speech on campus. We acknowledge that not all ideas are good and the best sanitizer for bad ideas is sunlight. This is why CFACT, in particular, brings in unique speakers and advocates for robust political discussions. We have never hosted an event that did not include a Q&A. Contrast this with the leftist groups who actively seek to police speech and ensure all discussions pander to the feelings of others.
All of these campus conditions tie back to the shortcomings of leftism overall. Leftists do not want free and open discussion; they want to make sure all speech is comfortable for those they feel are oppressed. This is a concerning trend and ideology because we are at a university. We are supposed to have robust debates and put our beliefs to the test. That is an uncomfortable concept for many people but it makes us all stronger and leads to the best ideas.
Policing ideas and banning offensive language is dangerous because it gives a mob the power to control the exchange of ideas. For example, if we were to give SDS control of the university, we would be led by an anti-Semitic, fascist, proto-terrorist group that produced the Weather Underground bombers. While that is some students’ cup of tea, it isn’t for everyone.
CFACT will not be cowardly and preach all this without backing it up. If any group wants to discuss our past events or our views on any topic, we are happy to host a space to accommodate.
President of CFACT
Senior Writer for the Minnesota Republic