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Editorial: DePaul could use a refresher course in free speech

Sun-Times file photo

It goes without saying, or so we thought, that a university should be a place of free, vigorous and often uncomfortable debate, not a place where unpopular views are squelched.

It also goes without saying, or so we thought, that an enlightened college administration would never defend muzzling a speaker because of security concerns.

But DePaul University last week denied a request from a student group to bring conservative commentator Ben Shapiro to speak on campus. That’s after college administrators were criticized two months earlier for not speaking out strongly enough after protesters stormed a stage and forced conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos to leave.

Somebody’s not showing much of a spine.


DePaul is a private university, so it is not governed by the same rules as a public university. But that doesn’t change the heart of the matter. A university by its nature should be a place where students weigh competing ideas and do their own analyses. The best response to a bad argument is a better argument.

Conservative writer, commentator Ben Shapiro

DePaul University has banned conservative Ben Shapiro from speaking on campus some two months after Milo Yiannopoulos’ appearance drew protests. | Facebook

Even the DePaul Democrats, who presumably don’t share Shapiro’s viewpoints, say he should not be banned from speaking on campus. Shapiro is a nationally syndicated columnist and a Harvard Law School graduate. As DePaul Democrats president Jack McNeil said, “In our democracy, opposing sides need to be heard.”

In an email to the Sun-Times, DePaul spokeswoman Carol Hughes explained that DePaul University’s Office of Public Safety, after observing events elsewhere, decided it could not “provide the type of security that would be required at this time.”

By that kind of thinking, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been barred from many of his historic marches and speeches. Friday is the 50th anniversary of a major rally King led here in Chicago, so this might be an excellent time to ponder a question:

Should people who scream the loudest be allowed to dictate what the rest of us can hear?

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