Update: Riley Gaines was able to speak on campus last week to a group of about 40 individuals without incident, according to the Breeze. However, the YAF event with Liz Wheeler, "The Ideology of Transgenderism" has garnered significant attention. At this point, comments on YAF's social media post advertising the event have exceeded 1,900. Not surprisingly, most of the comments are negative and many request intervention from JMU's Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Tim Miller on the grounds this event constitutes "hate speech." Some comments call for the University to cancel the event.
Other comments include:
"@JMU we demand a statement on why this is allowed. Hate speech isn't welcome in any capacity and this makes me sick. This isn't free speech. This isn't "differing opinions." This is transphobia. This is harmful. This is actively attacking a marginalized community. @jmutimmmiller.""Why are we allowing someone who spreads blatant misinformation and transphobic rhetoric onto campus. This is horrific. @JMU @jmutimmiller do better!!"
"Passing off an entire group of people as an "ideology" is not free speech, it's erasure. This fuels nothing but hate. @JMU if you want to keep preaching "diversity" and "inclusivity" you CANNOT let this event happen."
"Absolutely not! This is a gross display of hate speech!"
"This is absolutely disgusting. I don't care about "hearing both sides of the story" or whatever. This is just straight up transphobia, which should not be tolerated on campus. Great job making a welcoming environment for everyone, really showing your true colors."
"Free speech. Until someone disagrees with you.
Response: "free speech is different than trying to get ride of an entire community. This goes against the boundaries of free speech."
"This is fuc**d up on so many levels. and you know what...we will "stay mad." we will continue to "stay mad" until sh*t like this ends. free speech is not free when it impedes on others. Stop claiming that your transphobia and HATE speech is okay. Trans people will continue to take up space regardless of what conversation occurs in this meeting. Nothing good will come of this and when another LGBTQ+ child commits suicide... the blood is on your hands. Don't tell me your prolife and then pull shit like this."
"Hate speech has no place on our campus @JMU @jmutimmiller"
"@JMU @jmutimmiller hate speech allowed at JMU?? remind me to never donate to my alma mater again. This is repulsive and I am so ashamed this is permitted."
Perhaps the JMU students (and alumni) so upset over this event should consult JMU's Policy 1121, "Public Expression on Campus," for some clarification.
The policy states in 5.4, "The university will not use the content or viewpoint of an invited speaker’s presentation to withhold or withdraw an invitation to make a presentation on campus."
Or JMU's website dedicated to free speech. Given free speech is a topic of Governor Youngkin, we hope this event is attracting the attention of the Governor's administration. Last year in a letter to the Council of Presidents, Youngkin requested the presidents develop a collective shared statement that supports freedom of speech and inquiry and create a framework to nurture a culture that prioritizes civil discourse and debate.
Regardless, we hope the second event goes as smoothly as the first. The Madison Cabinet stands ready to support the YAF students organizing this event on campus.
Next week the Network of Enlightened Women (NEW) will host Riley Gaines on campus to discuss her efforts to pass Title XX, a federal law that would protect biological females in athletic competition. Just yesterday, Gaines was "ambushed and physically hit twice" while on the campus of San Francisco State University where she was speaking about her efforts to protect women's sports.
Also coming to JMU on April 26th is prominent conservative speaker, Liz Wheeler. She currently hosts her own podcast, but previously hosted a show on the One America News Network (OANN). A 2018 Politico piece featured her with other conservative news leaders, like Ben Shapiro, Tucker Carlson, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, and Dana Loesch.
We commend these two student groups for working to bring these thought leaders to campus and hope for successful events. Unfortunately, it has become commonplace across our nation for conservative students and voices to be shut down on college campuses. Look no further than last week when Students for Life at VCU were shut down after protestors overtook the event before it could even start. This shocking lack of respect for the first amendment drew the ire of the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, Todd Gilbert. He stated,
“The incident at Virginia Commonwealth University yesterday is another sad episode of free speech being shouted down on college campuses across our nation. The behavior and actions of the students opposed to the pro-life speakers is appalling. So was the reaction of university officials who shut down the event, rather than protecting the free speech of those invited to campus.
Lets hope JMU leadership and administrators do a better job protecting the free speech rights of these students and their organization's invited guests than those administrators at VCU.