Chicago- With college students back at school the usual ‘free speech’ and liberal bias complaints will begin again. The refusal by DePaul University administration to allow conservative speakers Candace Owens and Charlie Kirk to give a talk at the university seemed to be just another one of these stories.
“For the first time ever, my right to speak as a black conservative is being DENIED at @DePaulU in Chicago by VP Rico Tyler,” Owens Tweeted Tuesday, “He has referred to my words as “violent language. BLACK PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE TO BE DEMOCRATS is not ‘violent language.’”
Kirk was equal in condemnation. “The left hates the idea there are other ideas,” Kirk said, “They DENIED us because they say we say ‘potentially violent’ things. Hey DePaul, your fascism is showing.”
However, not all may be what it seems.
Efforts to invite the Candace Owens/Charlie Kirk Campus Clash speaking tour, a tour associated with Turning Point USA (TPUSA) to DePaul began in July 2018. Ema Gavrilovic, the TPUSA Campus Coordinator, made initial contact with the university’s administration to coordinate the event.
“Our hopes for the Campus Clash event were originally to bring in speakers knowledgeable on Conservative and Libertarian politics,” Gavrilovic said, “so we may engage the DePaul community through a Conservative lens.”
While some initial steps in setting up the even were successful and DePaul administration was cooperative, issues started to arise around the advertising of the event and the university’s “concerns regarding violent language at the sponsoring organizations national convention as well as identified populations being singled out in a demeaning fashion,” by TPUSA.
It is university policy that potential events not advertise that they are being hosted at DePaul until such an event is fully certified by the Student Organization Speaker Review Board. TPUSA claims that due to assurances on the part of DePaul University, TPUSA advertised that Candace Owens and Charlie Kirk would be speaking at DePaul. This was stated in both marketing directed at the local event to occur at DePaul University and in the marketing for the overall Campus Clash tour. Both the DePaul administration and the TPUSA chapter seem to reject the notion that the event was at any point confirmed to be held on the DePaul campus. The university claimed in a letter rejecting the event that this marketing material violated university policy and would need to be changed if the event were to proceed. While TPUSA took steps to remove the marketing associated with the local event and some of the marketing material associated with the national organization, some references to the event being held at DePaul still remained according to members of the DePaul administration. The event was denied access to campus facilities.
“We were excited to bring them on campus, and were disappointed when we received the rejection letter,” Gavrilovic indicated.
Members of the TPUSA chapter at DePaul assert it was the marketing material that was the primary reason that the event was denied there, and that the university’s rejection had little to do with the speaking content of the event.
“We were made aware that the primary reason of our school's refusal to host Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens was due to the constant barrage of advertisements that headquarters (HQ) was publishing detailing the event's location to be on campus before the event was confirmed,” the TPUSA DePaul chapter said in a public statement, “While it is true that the potentially hateful speech was a secondary concern by the DePaul administration it was not the primary reason for the rejection; HQ never addressed this speech concern – if HQ truly saw it as the primary concern-- in the appeals process to administration.”
The TPUSA national organization saw the process differently.
“At this point it’s clear, we’ve been blocked from campus simply because we’re conservative. DePaul’s plan was to delay, delay, delay, and then claim there was no longer ‘enough time,’” the TPUSA national organization said in a press release, “We will not let them get away with this deception. They never intended to let us speak and they used every bureaucratic tactic in the book to restrict our speech.”
Members of the TPUSA chapter stated that while particular members of the decision board may have had an anti-conservative agenda, the board in general seemed to be forthcoming with help.
“We do believe we were fairly treated by the administration,” Gavrilovic said, “The administration kept in contact with our chapter to discuss how the process is going and to discuss next steps. After HQ stepped up and started contacting administration more , the administration was still generous enough to share extra information to Turning Point about how the process is going, the timeline of events, and just seemed overall fair and cooperative despite continued building pressure from the HQ side to host the event.”
While DePaul is known for having rejected Ben Shapiro, the university did not respond to whether or not the current situation with Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens was distinguishable from prior denials.
The event is still set to be held at the JW Marriott Hotel in Chicago on October 16, near the DePaul University campus.
“We are still excited that the event is taking place albeit on an off-campus location,” Gavrilovic explained, “We support the event itself.”