A student-organized protest against administration occurred Wednesday, April 10 in front of St. John’s. Between 40-60 members of the Creighton community, students and faculty alike, were in attendance.
The protest occurred in light of the recent Turning Point USA event held on Wednesday, March 27 in which the student organization hosted a panel consisting of two conservative individuals: Anna Paulina, director of Latino engagement for TPUSA, and Dr. Mark Christian, the founder of the Global Faith Institute, which the Southern Poverty Law Center listed as an anti-Muslim hate group.
Backlash arose both at the panel and afterward regarding Creighton administration allowing Dr. Christian to speak on campus.
A summary of the event and repercussions was published last week.
The protest was organized by a committee of students, which included two keynote speakers.
The first speaker, Mallory Cranwell, senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said that their presence was “calling upon Creighton’s administration to follow our mission based upon the promotion of justice, service to others, the inalienable worth of each individual and appreciation of ethnic and cultural diversity.”
“Upon arrival to this campus during welcome week, we sit through presentation after presentation that teaches us about our values and what it means to have a Jesuit education. I believe that students are doing their part, and we would like administration to start doing theirs,” Cranwell said.
Cranwell reiterated that the protest was not political, and it didn’t come down to free speech or this single event, rather the safety and acceptance of students on Creighton’s campus.
“There has been a consistent lack of inclusivity, diversity and visibility for minorities on this campus and it is time for that to change,” she said.
Cranwell then delved into what she said living Creighton’s mission and values means.
She said that it includes “protecting students, especially those who do not fit Creighton’s status quo.”
“If that means administrators have to deny a speaker who is anti-Muslim or an event that targets undocumented immigrants, I urge them to stand and do it,” Cranwell said. “We can still have free speech and intellectual diversity on this campus without having hate and bigotry. We are calling for a more standardized and equal process for clubs’ and events’ approval. The system we have now is not equal.”
She also said that she is disappointed in the “lack of urgency” among administration and the “failure to acknowledge the inequality” on campus.
The next speaker was Areej Kawari, a College of Arts and Sciences senior and the president of the Muslim Student Association.
Kawari is originally from Kuwait, and said that prior to coming to the United States, she had heard of incidents regarding Muslims being treated differently because of their religion.
“I had hope that it would never be something that I would encounter at Creighton, and it never was, until two weeks ago,” Kawari said. “The speakers of the panel used hateful language against undocumented immigrants and Muslims during the Q&A session. Students were not able to get their questions out or express their opinions without being interrupted and even verbally attacked by the panelists.”
She said that it “broke her heart” to see a Jesuit university allow this to happen.
“The reason we are having this demonstration is not to target a certain group of people or to silence people whose beliefs do not match or align with our beliefs but to stand up against injustice and refuse to give hate speech a platform on our campus,” Kawari said.
She proceeded to ask administration, “What part of the Creighton mission statement were [the administrators] referencing when they allowed for the speaker to have a space on our campus?”
Kawari then brought up the argument that the event was intended to be a balanced panel prior to the two Democrats invited cancelling last minute.
“I then ask the question: is hate okay as long as its balanced by something else?” she said. “Are we as students, and more importantly, are we as human beings OK with our University thinking that? Was this event showing Creighton for and with others or finding God in all things? I urge you all to keep thinking about these questions and never give up standing up for your values.”
Karli Sugar, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore, was one of the students on the committee putting the demonstration together. She introduced the speakers and concluded the event.
“The reason we put it together was for a very peaceful way to show administration that students really do care,” Sugar said. “We want to make sure that this is a very diverse campus, and we’re urging administration to better standardize what student organizations bring to campus and that they represent the values of our school.”
Sugar said that she thought the demonstration went great and that the turnout meant a lot to the committee who put it on.
Haley Supergan, College of Arts and Sciences junior and president of the TPUSA chapter at Creighton, spoke up on behalf of their chapter and herself in regards to the protest.
“As a whole, I think that the protest was extremely hypocritical and used free speech to hinder free speech and then claiming that it wasn’t a free speech issue,” Supergan said. “At the protest, Mallory spoke of ‘the lack of inclusivity for minorities on campus’ in regards to ‘faith, race, class, gender, citizenship and sexual identity—especially those who do not fit Creighton’s Status quo’ but failed to even mention intellectual or political diversity. Likewise, Areej mentioned that ‘differences among people are normal and should be celebrated,’ but is unwilling to entertain the idea of people having different opinions, beliefs or viewpoints.”
Supergan said that she does not believe the speakers at the event engaged in hate speech and she did not know that the SPLC labeled the Global Faith Institute as a hate group before inviting Dr. Christian to speak.
However, she did add, “I do not consider the SPLC a credible group to determine what ‘hate’ is or what ‘hate groups’ are. The SPLC has been debunked and exposed as a bigoted group that, while recognizing some groups that may correctly be deemed as hateful, seeks to destroy credible organizations simply for being conservative.”
She referenced a Washington Post opinion article that other conservative students have pointed out in terms of SPLC’s credibility. Supergan also said that the Washington Post is a left-leaning media outlet discrediting SPLC.
Supergan said that she values free speech, and she believes “anyone who is openly calling for violence and who is deemed a physical threat to campus should not be allowed. However, panelists, discussions, debates and the free flow of ideas should not be censored.”
Thereby, she believes Dr. Christian fit that criteria and should have been approved.
“The biggest thing that the Creighton TPUSA chapter has been concerned with over the backlash received over the event are the lies and the failure of our peers and the student body as a whole to confront and have an actual conversation with any of the actual TPUSA members about their feelings of the event,” Supergan said.
She then shared that she, too, feels unwelcome on Creighton’s campus because of her political beliefs.
“[Conservatives] are constantly ridiculed just for thinking differently than others. I have had teachers tell me that my views are not welcome in their classrooms, people shout ‘how dare you’ at me over a question in class, and even received lower grades on opinion-based papers or Blueline responses because of my political ideology,” Supergan said. “Creighton constantly preaches diversity and inclusivity, but the one form of diversity that is so willingly ignored is intellectual diversity. I have never been in an environment more hostile to me in my entire life. There has never been a day on this campus where I have felt completely welcome on the campus as a whole.”
She said that the goal of TPUSA is to inform people of conservatism, “because you won’t learn about it in the classroom unless a teacher bashes it.”
Additionally, she has never met “more close-minded individuals than some of those that [she has] met on Creighton’s campus.”
“At the event there were signs that said ‘We feel unwelcome.’ I am sorry that students feel that way after our event, but I ask them this: Why should I feel unwelcome every single day at a place that I, too, consider my home for my political beliefs?”