Young Americans for Freedom to bring controversial commentator Dinesh D’Souza to campus
Event was denounced by some, but club stands by the decision to bring D’Souza to AU
An event featuring far-right conservative political commentator and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza sparked polarized opinions at AU after the University’s chapter for Young Americans for Freedom announced the event on social media.
D’Souza is set to speak during YAF’s Freedom Week on Nov. 7, the day after the midterm elections. According to the event page, D’Souza will address the idea of free speech and “what we are fighting about” in the Trump era.
Jenna Brink, communications director and secretary of YAF, and Duncan Crim, treasurer of YAF, said YAF’s intentions in bringing D’Souza to campus are to promote free speech and allow D’Souza to create political conversations between students.
“Freedom Week is mostly based around the freedom of speech and encompassing the rights we have as American citizens,” Brink said. “Having Dinesh come is a way to spark conversation and have people from both sides question him, his policies, see where he stands, challenge him and maybe learn something from it. It’s all about conversation.”
The controversy surrounding D’Souza’s appearance on campus is rooted in his history of inflammatory comments on social media, including calling Barack Obama a “boy” from the “ghetto” on Twitter, attempting to draw connections between homosexuality and Nazis and calling women advocating for gender equality “feminist whiners,” among other comments. D’Souza is also well-known for his provocative films about prominent Democratic politicians, including Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Additionally, in May 2014, D'Souza pleaded guilty in federal court to a felony charge for making illegal campaign contributions. In 2018, President Donald Trump pardoned him from the crime.
Dani Revello, a sophomore in SPA, expressed anger with D’Souza coming to campus, saying that D’Souza is “the embodiment of everything that is wrong with conservative America.”
“His ideals range from ‘slavery is good’ to ‘the left are Nazis,’” Revello said. “All he is trying to do is divide America even more than it already is by pointing fingers and calling names.”
AU College Democrats also condemned the event and called for YAF to withdraw their invitation, saying that D’Souza is the “antithesis of respectful,” and that his discriminatory rhetoric does not belong on AU’s campus.
Crim said that YAF is ideologically conservative, so hosting a conservative speaker like D’Souza would be interesting and would give voice to the smaller conservative population on campus.
YAF unanimously agreed on inviting D’Souza to speak at AU, Brink and Crim said. However, they also acknowledged that there are students on campus who do not support D’Souza’s views and said they are prepared for potential interruptions from protesters during the event.
“AUPD is the security for the event,” Crim said. “So if someone starts acting like a child, they’ll be escorted out like a child would be.”
Brink added that everyone has a right to their own opinions, and she “entertains the idea of having people come who don’t agree with D’Souza.” But she said that D’Souza deserves the same amount of respect that anyone would want for themselves.
“People have the right to protest, but let’s do it in a nice manner, and do it by asking questions and questioning his beliefs or statements and learning more,” Brink said. “Don’t come and interrupt the hard work we’ve put into allowing Dinesh to be here and for him to share his message because this person has taken time out of his day to be here and speak and have this conversation with us.”
While YAF emphasizes the importance of free speech and sparking conversation, other students feel that bringing D’Souza to campus would cause more harm than good due to his political views and past statements.
“Giving D’Souza a platform at AU is enabling him to spread these racist, sexist and nationalist ideas,” Revello said. “The hate that he’s spreading has actual power. It’s divisive and is causing rifts in the campus.”
Despite the pushback that YAF has received, they still believe the event will be a way for them to get their name out in front of students and “build up a base” of members, Crim said. In addition, Brink hopes the event will help increase the diversity of political speakers at the University.
“Maybe in the future we can be this change of having an equal ratio of conservative to liberal people coming to campus, to give that small population on campus that has a conservative ideology their own time to feel a part of the community,” Brink said. “AU is so big about diversity and making sure everyone feels included, and we have this job to make sure that the conservative portion of campus is included as well, because they are not always represented as much.”