Maybe Karma is real, after all. Because one college’s “Pride Club” just got an incredibly karmic lesson in the importance of free speech for all.
The drama all started when Whitworth University’s chapter of Turning Point USA (TPUSA) invited Chinese dissident Xi Van Fleet to speak on campus about her personal experience and the horrors of the Chinese Communist Party. Because of Van Fleet’s past criticisms of “woke” ideas, the Whitworth student government voted to deny TPUSA’s request to host Van Fleet on campus. This earned Whitworth the ire of the nonpartisan Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), because while it is a private university, it does promise to protect “freedom of expression for its students, staff and faculty” in line with the “Constitutional understandings of free expression.”
Clearly, it did not do so when it barred Van Fleet from speaking on campus. However, many student groups, including the university’s Pride Club, supported this decision. In a statement posted to their Instagram account, the club thanked the people who blocked Van Fleet from receiving a platform because she is supposedly someone “who might make [campus] feel unsafe or unwelcoming to BIPOC and our LGBTQIA2S+ [sic] community.” It promised to “stand against this negative rhetoric.”
Now, just a week later, the Pride Club has had its own event canceled by the university, FIRE reports. The group had planned a “Queer Church” event that it had intended to be a “celebration of LGBTQIA2S+ [sic] resiliency and love.” The event was supposed to involve “food trucks, gender affirming resources, an open mic, and a drag workshop,” with the last part, the drag workshop, proving most controversial. According to the Pride Club itself, Whitworth has forced them to delete their original post promoting the event and cancel it altogether, saying “it doesn’t align with the ethos of the university.”
How can the Pride Club possibly credibly claim that it ought to have the right to host events and speech on campus just days—literally days—after cheering the successful censorship of another campus group? It’s always incredibly short-sighted to support censorship, but rarely do the tables turn so quickly.
As FIRE notes, “Pride Club’s disapproval of TPUSA’s free expression—just days before being censored themselves under similar circumstances—shows why students need not support certain speech while still vigorously defending the right to say it. Instead, when you call for censorship of certain views, censors will eventually suppress your views too.”
That said, both groups should’ve been allowed to host their events. Even a private university cannot promise its students it will uphold their freedom of expression and then allow controversial guest speakers to be booted off campus and restrict student groups from playing dress-up.
Censoring students twice in one week is a truly terrible look for Whitmore. Prospective parents and students should take note and reconsider sending their dollars to a campus that doesn’t respect their students’ rights.
But this silly saga has ramifications that end far beyond the borders of one private university’s campus. People across the political spectrum need to wake up and realize that when they support the suppression of other peoples’ speech, they are setting the stage for censorship that will ultimately be used against them, too.