Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com, host of “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and former editor-at-large for Breitbart News Network, spoke to a room of about 200 Chapman students, faculty, and visitors at a private event for senior business graduates on May 9 at Sandhu Conference Center. Whatever money was paid to Shapiro by an outsider is of interest in light of a resolution by Chapman faculty in March to not to accept donations to hire faculty and engage in research with predetermined outcomes. The resolution came as a result of concern over a $5 million donation made by the Charles Koch Foundation and others.
“A supporter that had connections asked to have him speak here,” said Thomas Turk, the dean of the Argyros School of Business and Economics. “We anticipated that there would be students who would have an interest.”
Turk would not give Prowl the name of the source that arranged Shapiro’s appearance, but said that individual also financed the speaker’s fee.
Shapiro’s booking fee ranges between $50,000 and $100,000, according to the celebrity booking agency All American Speakers.
Shapiro declined Prowl’s requests for an interview.
Shapiro is often the center of media coverage for his conservative beliefs in politics, religion, race, and gender issues. He has said in the past that, “Israelis like to build. Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage. This is not a difficult issue. #SettlementsRock,” “the Obama administration is racist,” and “Trayvon Martin would have turned 21 today if he hadn’t taken a man’s head and beaten it on the pavement before being shot,” among other statements. His appearances at other schools, most notably at University of California, Berkeley, California State University, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California, were met with protests and demonstrations by students and faculty.
Leaflets with a list of Shapiro’s past public statements and opinions were distributed by a group of students who opposed his appearance on campus to attendees at the event. An anonymous member of the group claimed that their goal was to “educate the people about who Shapiro is and the beliefs and values that he stands for.”
Shapiro told the crowd the most important thing to know when graduating is “no one owes you anything,” and for students to brace themselves to pay a lot of dues by working for free before becoming successful. In the question-and-answer period that followed, students asked Shapiro to expand on his views on abortion, whether he thought the government should regulate social media to ensure freedom of speech, and U.S. involvement in Iran. They also asked him to address points reprising his views on a pamphlet passed out by a handful of opponents outside the door of Sandhu before his speech.
Shapiro read the pamphlet aloud: “Homosexuality is a sin, same-sex marriage is wrong, transgender people are mentally ill,” he said, adding, “agree, agree, agree.”
Junior screenwriting major Oba Olaniyi—who said he was the only African American person in the audience—asked Shapiro to elaborate on the statement, “African-Americans were discriminated against historically, but systemic racism no longer exists.”
Shapiro defended his claim that systemic racism does not exist and insisted institutional racism “has been illegal in this country for a very long time,” but allowed that individual racism does.
A woman’s reproductive choice “[is] called, ‘Don’t have sex if you don’t want to have a baby.’ That’s the same reproductive choice that men generally have,” said Shapiro. “What they mean by reproductive choice is that you should be able to kill a human life in the womb if you feel like that.”
Shapiro confirmed he does not believe in abortion in cases of incest or rape. “You don’t get to kill it just because something terrible happened to you,” he said. However, Shapiro said abortion should be allowed if the mother’s life is in danger.
The business school gave senior business majors priority for admission. Turk said that individual students reached out to him, but he was not able to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend.
“The challenge has been that the room is completely full,” said Turk. Shapiro’s appearance “generated a lot of enthusiasm and interest.”
Some students outside of the business school were able to attend. One table of nine seats was filled by members of Chapman Republicans.
The racial demographics in the room were not surprising to Olaniyi,
“Had I not reached out individually, I would not be here. I’m not sure there would have been any black people in the room, besides the waiters,” Olanyi said.
Shapiro’s appearance demonstrated Chapman’s “definite problem with race” and “the ideas [the university] tries to push forward,” for Olaniyi.
“It’s upsetting to me that someone with those views has the platform they do, because he denies racism against black people, but there is racism that exists in the governmental system, and the media does shape black people in a certain way,” Olaniyi said later.
“I realize now that I live in an isolated part of Chapman. I’m in the Dodge screenwriting program, which is more diverse and accepting towards people of color and LGBTQ students,” Olaniyi said. “But this was almost like walking on main campus and seeing ‘oh, [Shapiro] is really there.’ I think this room represents Chapman, for the most part.”
“There were very few things on the pamphlet that he outright denied,” Olaniyi said.
“I was uncomfortable and disheartened by Shapiro’s speech, obviously. There was a sense of discomfort to know that so many people on my campus are willing to applaud for some of the things he was saying,” Olaniyi said. “But also, a lot of them are his own personal opinions.”
In addition to the pamphlets, papers with Shapiro’s controversial tweets on Twitter were also stuck all over the staircases and walls outside of the Sandhu residence building, igniting conversation among passer-bys and speech attendees.