College Rep. Event is Part of Nationwide Trend
by Andrew Millman
Staff Free Speecher
College campuses are typically very liberal environments. It’s no secret that College Democrats usually outnumber College Republicans on nearly every college campus across the country and Fordham is no exception. “Sometimes I feel that I should hide my views when talking to classmates,” said Louis Norred, a freshman College Republican. According to him, the liberal leanings of most of the faculty is a major topic of conversation at their weekly meetings. This type of atmosphere can cause campus conservatives to feel isolated and marginalized within their own college community. Because they view themselves as in the minority, they feel like they must be provocative to gain the attention of their fellow students. In recent years, a popular new tactic has emerged among College Republicans nationwide for doing just that: inviting controversial right-wing speakers, such as Milo Yiannopoulos or Ann Coulter, to campus.
These invitations set off a predictable series of events. Campus liberals get upset and demand that the administration shut down the event. The administration either obliges and cancels the event, citing security concerns; or, allows the event to happen and students protest, sometimes shutting down the event themselves and sparking violence in a few instances. Either case benefits the College Republicans. They earn much-craved publicity for the controversial event and then more for the campus’s reaction to it, thus getting their message out to a wider audience. It also enables them to assume the mantle of free-speech martyrdom.
In February, the Berkeley College Republicans invited Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on campus as part of his nationwide tour. His topic was going to be cultural appropriation, or rather how that isn’t an issue. The college took extra security measures due to Yiannopoulos’s history of violence erupting at his events. Hundreds of students protested the event and a riot broke out causing over $100,000 in property damage. The event was cancelled by the school and afterwards Yiannopoulos called the protests “political violence” and himself “the catalyst for change.” The President even weighed in and threatened that colleges like Berkeley would lose their federal funding if they did not support conservative speakers such as Milo. Both Milo and the Berkeley Republicans got what they wanted out of the ordeal: publicity.
However, there is one major problem with this new tactic for many College Republican chapters. These controversial provocateurs aren’t going around to college campuses out of the kindness of their heart. They charge exorbitant speaking fees for their performances and College Republican chapters simply cannot afford them. That is where wealthy conservatives come in and pay for the fees to advance their agendas. For Milo, billionaire Robert Mercer, who is the top funder of both Brietbart and the Trump presidential campaign, financed his entire nationwide speaking tour. In the case of the Roger Stone event, it was alumnus Joseph Campagna, who gave a “huge contribution”, according to the College Republicans chapter president Sebastian Balasov. The chapter had previously set up a GoFundMe page to raise the required funds to bring Stone to campus and would not have been able to afford the speech without the donation of Mr. Campagna, who had been vice president of the Fordham Republicans while a student. Rich donors see college campuses as bastions of liberalism where the next generation of Americans is currently being indoctrinated and they want to fight back.
In his October 10th speech at Keating Hall, Trump advisor Roger Stone continued this theme, tweeting he “won’t be silenced” in response to Father McShane releasing a statement about the event, claiming victimhood for himself and his supporters, much like Milo has done. Stone’s appearance at Fordham clearly accomplished the implicit goals of the Fordham Republicans. The event filled the Keating Hall auditorium, with both supporters and protesters. Several College Republicans spoke before Mr. Stone and were able to get their message to many students that normally would not attend the regular Fordham GOP meetings. According to the Balasov, the speech was the “most-attended club event of the year” and the most-attended College Republican event in the last “three or four years.” Prior to Mr. Stone’s speech, the crowd listened to several College Republicans, who opportunistically used the moment to advance their club’s goal of spreading conservative values on campus. Balasov and campus conservatives consider the event a great success. Roger Stone’s performance on campus may have caused tension among the student body, but Fordham Republicans got fifteen minutes of fame to spread their message to a wider audience. Speeches like the one at Fordham have effectively become expensive and sometimes exercises in the elaborate trolling of college students by adult conservatives. It would be comical if it wasn’t leading to violence and tension among students at places where learning should be the primary concern.