Conservative speaker addresses students at UConn

Ben Shapiro is speaking at UConn Wednesday evening (WFSB)

The University of Connecticut campus was host to a controversial conservative speaker Wednesday evening.

The speech came nearly two months after the university made national headlines when Lucian Wintrich's "It's OK to be White" speech took a chaotic turn.

There were serious changes to security, which school officials have been talking about for over a month.

On Wednesday, students were getting their bags checked going into the south dining hall at lunchtime, hours before the scheduled speech of conservative Ben Shapiro in the attached Rome Ballroom.

"I’ve never really had to get my bag checked into a dining hall before so it's a little bit interesting,” said Brittany Nelson, who is a junior at UConn.

Ben Shapiro is the editor in chief of the Daily Wire, which is the fastest growing podcast in the nation, a Fox News Contributor, a writer, a political commentator.

UConn’s Young Republicans sponsored the event along with the Young America’s Foundation.

"The premier conservative outreach institution for the young conservative movement and so we have Ben Shapiro on a nationwide lecture tour. We're bringing him to UConn and we're taking him all over the country,” said Spencer Brown, spokesman for Young America's Foundation.

Wednesday night's speech was much calmer.

The speech was also not open to the public, which likely kept some people with different opinions away.

Shapiro was disappointed about the decision but a UConn spokesperson says that call was made by the college Republicans.

Shapiro sparked protests at UC Berkeley in September of last year with his talk "Say No to Campus Thuggery.”

"We are allowed to invite guests from the public on a limited capacity again part of it is just the nature of the venue there are 500 seats and we can't let in everyone that's interested,” said Tim Sullivan, president of UConn Young Republicans.

A short walk across the street, police were seen installing a new security camera outside the Dodd Center where UConn College Democrats are having their own speaker at the same time, expecting 185.

"So the College Democrats are hosting Nathan J. Robinson tonight and he's giving a speech entitled ‘Ben Shapiro is not as insightful as he thinks he is’,” said Colin Mortimer, UConn College Democrats event organizer.

The precautions at UConn come from their new review process in the wake of Lucian Wintrich's speech that went viral after a woman took his notes from the lectern.

"UConn enacted new event review procedures after the last event. As many people know that event I would say went sideways is probably a polite way to put it,” said UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz.

That review includes analyzing events and safety protocols far in advance.

Shapiro organizers say there are double standards.

"They did restrict attendance to just University students and faculty and then a pre-registered list of outsiders. But this is a double standard that we see here because just last week Anita Hill spoke here with no restriction on who could attend at all so it seems like they're promoting leftist speakers and allowing them to speak anywhere anytime but subjecting conservative speakers to these stringent regulations,” Brown said.

While the university acknowledged they will encourage restrictions for safety it is up to the hosts of the speaker.

"The student groups that host these events are allowed to decide if they are going to be public events or open to the UConn community only,” Reitz said.

UConn’s administration says the bottom line is safety for an environment where everyone can speak their part.

“The first amendment does guarantee you freedom of speech, doesn't guarantee you applause for expressing that but we certainly want to guarantee that you have your freedom of speech here at UConn,” Reitz said.

Copyright 2018 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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