Joshua Hiero, a freshman double-majoring in political science and economics, is a member of GW YAF.
The most sought-after conservative speaker in the country, Ben Shapiro, spoke on campus earlier this month at an event hosted by GW’s chapter of the Young America’s Foundation. Prior to the event, serious threats were levied against Shapiro and the YAF chapter, itself. Posters were found throughout the campus bearing a red “X” over Shapiro’s image with text stating, “Hey YAF, get security.”
The event went on as planned, and Shapiro spoke to a sold-out venue at the Dorothy Marvin Betts Theater in the Marvin Center. While the event went on without a hitch, the University’s response to the clear threats against a student organization were shockingly negligent.
As a conservative on GW’s campus, I have become used to the groans, snickers and derogatory comments from fellow students when they find out I am involved in YAF, but I did not expect the organization to be treated as poorly as it was by the administration, especially in light of legitimate concerns from YAF members. The GW Police Department rejected the threats as not being specific even though GW YAF had been threatened by name. As conservative students, we don’t seek sympathy or preferential treatment, we simply want to be treated fairly. The administration’s inaction spoke for itself and made it evident that the concerns of students with political views contrary to the campus majority are not a priority.
The University has taken a very strong stance on threats, discriminatory behavior and bigoted speech in the past. In a recent high-profile incident, members of the Alpha Phi sorority chapter posted a Snapchat holding a banana peel with the caption, “Izzy: I’m 1/16 black.” The incident quickly gained attention and immediate action was taken by the University. GW took the proper course of action by investigating the situation and implementing a slew of changes, including a mandatory diversity training for incoming freshmen. In contrast, in the midst of recent threats against GW YAF, which included threats of legitimate violence, no investigation was pursued and an utter lack of consistency was displayed by the administration.
Over the past few years, GW YAF has had numerous encounters with students on campus interrupting events and denigrating its materials. During an annual pro-life display called the “Cemetery of the Innocent” last year, students vandalized crosses representing the lives lost through abortion. There have been attempts to frame GW YAF with Islamophobic posters that were falsely attributed to the organization. Even as recent as this semester chalking displays were immediately ruined, and many other YAF events have resulted in intolerant students venting their anger towards conservatives.
While the University doesn’t bear responsibility for these actions, GW YAF is a targeted group on campus and an ineffective response by the administration only exacerbates these problems. A statement claiming to support all students is not enough. Until concrete action is taken, GW will continue to be an inhospitable place for conservative thought and students.