A student from GW’s chapter of the Young America’s Foundation claimed that GW did not take threats of violence against the organization seriously in an op-ed last week. In the essay, the student alleges that the GW Police Department did not seriously investigate signs that appeared on campus reading “Hey YAF, Get Security.” The signs featured a crossed-out image of Ben Shapiro, a conservative speaker the organization was hosting on campus.
The claim that GW’s chapter of YAF is a “targeted group on campus” is absurd. In reality, there is no pressing threat against conservatives on campus. YAF and the ideologies that the organization supports represent a far graver danger to diversity and freedom within the bounds of GW’s campus and beyond.
The writer argues that the University was negligent in its response to these threats, but GW did manage the incident effectively. The posters were discovered, GWPD was notified, an investigation was conducted and the threat was ruled not imminent. The event was still hosted with GWPD presence and there were no disruptions before, during or after the event. YAF cannot claim negligence or mismanagement by the University after its event went off without a hitch.
The notion that conservative students on campus are somehow “under attack” or “under threat” is a common and misguided one. That conviction undermines the violence that other minority communities, including those on campus, experience at staggering levels. Transgender people, Jewish people and people of color all face daily dangers that far exceed the threats leveled against the conservative group ahead of Shapiro’s speech on campus.
Last year, there were 22 fatal attacks on transgender individuals across the country. The life expectancy for transgender women of color in the country is 35 years. The broader queer community faces high levels of violence as well.
Men shouting “MAGA country” attacked “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett just last week.
As a queer student, this violence represents my reality. During my first weekend on campus, I was harassed on the Metro because the individuals noticed that I looked queer. A few weeks later, I was followed for several miles throughout the city before being harassed, shoved to the ground and spit on.
The Jewish community also faces increasing violence. There has been an increase in all hate crimes since the election of President Donald Trump, but the jump in anti-Semitic attacks specifically leads the climb. Despite a drop in violent crime, hate crimes have risen by 17 percent and anti-Semitic hate crimes have risen by 37 percent.
This is real violence and these are real threats. Members of YAF have no legitimate basis to claim that they are not properly protected because of their ideology on GW’s campus. Especially considering an ideology is chosen and these other identities are ones you are born with, this organization is not under threat.
Shapiro opposes same-sex marriage and believes that being transgender is akin to having mental illness. Vice President Mike Pence has been touted on GW YAF’s Facebook page as one of its members “favorite conservatives,” but Pence has spoken out against allowing LGBTQ service in the military and worked to reallocate funds dedicated for HIV and AIDS research to conversion therapy programs. Most alarmingly, Trump has joked that Pence wanted to hang all LGBTQ people.
YAF demands safety on campus while promoting politicians who support openly violent and oppressive policies. YAF also gripes about the disdain it receives for its political choices, while minorities – who have no say over their given race or sexual orientation – receive far worse treatment from the organization and the individuals it supports for simply existing.
YAF has a right to exist on campus with the full protection of GWPD. However, YAF lacks the evidence to support the conclusion that administrators did not properly respond to threats. If YAF wishes to claim it is a group in danger, it must present evidence that shows the dangers it faces are equal or greater than the dangers faced by people of color, Jewish people, LGBTQ people and other communities targeted by YAF and the policies and politicians it supports.
Jack Murphy, a freshman majoring in philosophy, is a Hatchet columnist.
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