By: The YU College Democrats | Opinions  | 

Letter to the Editor: The YU College Democrats

To the Editor,

In an article that appeared online Thursday afternoon titled “Shapiro, Prager, and Bringing Real Debate to Campus,” the author, who is Chairman of Yeshiva University’s Young America’s Foundation chapter, made a number of claims. Chief among them was that in the face of speakers they disagree with, leftist students on campus “cry,” “complain,” “name call,” and “try to silence” the speakers, rather than “contributing to the conversation” or “opening their ears and minds to a difference of opinion.” He then implied that leftists at YU have hosted only one event, claimed that it was a radical event about inciting revolution, and made an attempt to tie the event by the YU College Democrats to antifa and domestic terrorism.

We believe that these gross misrepresentations of our club require rectification and that our proceedings merit clarification.

The first accusation is quite puzzling. Since the event with Dennis Prager was announced more than three weeks ago, there has been absolutely no effort to halt the event by anyone within our ranks. To the contrary, many of us plan to attend the event, and some have even publically encouraged attendance. As a club, we have done precisely what the author suggested we do, and what has always been our modus operandi: we have invited speakers to campus to contribute to the conversation.

The YU College Democrats have—contrary to the author’s claim—hosted two events so far this semester. The first featured a screening of I Am Not Your Negro, an Oscar-nominated documentary about racism in America and the lives of civil rights leaders. Conservative students, like all YU students, certainly had the chance to attend this event.

The second event was the one alluded to in the article. However, the author—who did not attend the event—severely mischaracterized it. The event featured two YU professors, one of Art History and one of English, both of whom surely meet the author’s criterion of “scholar” at least as much as a radio host. One discussed how art has been utilized for activism in the past, with an emphasis on its form and usage of reappropriation, while the other discussed the meaning of “civil disobedience” and its proper place. At no point during the event was violent protest endorsed, and at no point was antifa even mentioned.

The image on the flyer for the event—which the author somehow misinterpreted as a “call for violence”—was a piece by renowned anonymous street artist Banksy, depicting a protester wielding a bouquet of flowers.

We have one further event scheduled for this semester, which will take place on Tuesday, December 5th, the very day after the Dennis Prager event. This event will feature a senior attorney at The Innocence Project, who will be discussing the organization’s work using DNA evidence to exonerate innocent people wrongfully convicted of crimes they didn’t commit—many of whom have already served decades in prison, and some of whom were sentenced to death—as well as how the justice system can be reformed to prevent such injustice from occurring in the first place.

These are the types of events the YU College Democrats run on campus, while YAF invites polemicists, advertises them with provocation, and boasts leaders and speakers who engage in sweeping generalizations and straw-manning of the other side. We too are “confident that reasonable people will be able to see the difference and judge who is contributing to the expansion of debate and conversation in this educational institution.”

As always, the YU College Democrats remain—contrary to the author’s insinuations—committed to free speech, free thought, the free exchange of ideas, common decency, rationality, open-mindedness, and expanding horizons. Given the author’s stated commitment to similar values, we look forward to seeing him on December 5th.

The YU College Democrats