Campus, News

Negotiations for Ben Shapiro event on campus lead to a decrease in venue size

Ben Shapiro at the Young Women’s Leadership Summit, hosted by Turning Point USA, a freedom-focused nonprofit, at the Hyatt Regency DFW Hotel in Dallas, Texas in June 2018. Boston University’s Young Americans for Freedom is in negotiations with the administration for Shapiro to come speak on campus. COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA

The Young Americans for Freedom at Boston University have been in negotiations with Boston University’s administration to secure a venue and security for conservative speaker Ben Shapiro to visit campus. BU has agreed to cover the security costs but said the event must be held in a smaller venue than YAF requested.

YAF requested Shapiro speak at Metcalf Hall in the George Sherman Union, a 1,500-person venue, but BU is requiring the event to be held at Morse Auditorium, a 700-person venue, according to BU Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore.

Elmore said that the venue was changed for security concerns for Shapiro. The Boston University Police Department recommended Morse as a venue because it would be easier to secure. The GSU is a more open space, which would be more difficult and costly to make sure everyone is safe.

“[Shapiro] draws opposition and counter protesters on the outsides of buildings and around buildings and that all had to be considered as a part of it, when you think about what venue or what location you would use,” Elmore said. “We’re following the reasonable security plan of the BUPD.”

Diana Soriano, the president of BU YAF, wrote in an email that they are still trying to negotiate the location of the event.

“BU’s security quote is all preemptive,” Soriano wrote. “There have been no actual threats. The venue is where our current negotiations are.”

BU gave YAF an initial estimate of $12,720 for security costs last week, according to YAF. Soriano said the university later agreed to cover the costs of security.

After the initial estimate was released, YAF’s national website published an article stating that the security costs were an attempt to “undermine conservative speakers,” a narrative that was also picked up by Shapiro’s conservative news site The Daily Wire. Soriano wrote that she thinks these articles led to BU covering the security costs.

“Once we [saw] how ridiculous [the estimate] was (nearly $13,000 of security fees as a base that could potentially grow significantly, and a requirement to cut our venue size in half), we gave our parent organization Young American the go to launch a PR offensive,” Soriano wrote.

Elmore said the change in security costs was just a “normal part of the program planning process.”

“Students plan programs, and students get a variety of estimates on costs for the program,” Elmore said. “And in a case where it’s a certain type of speaker, there may be added security costs that are part of the cost of the program.”

Shapiro hosts “The Ben Shapiro Show” — a conservative podcast. He has also authored nonfiction books and newspaper columns, worked as an attorney, and is editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire. Shapiro travels to college campuses to speak about politics and his sometimes controversial beliefs.

Shapiro holds multiple controversial views. In a 2014 Youtube video, he said that a majority of Muslims are radicalized. He thinks abortion should be illegal and doctors who perform it should be prosecuted, according to Slate. Shapiro has described homosexuality as a sin, according to Slate, and believes that transgender people suffer from a mental illness, according to ABC News.

If the event happens, BU College Democrats President Nancy Santarsiero said they are planning to hold a peaceful protest on Marsh Plaza.

“I believe that all students at BU deserve the right to freedom of speech, but we also have the right to use our voices to protest,” Santarsiero said. “I worry about giving YAF more attention, because that is what they want … We will hold a peaceful protest on Marsh and have a competing fundraiser for LGBTQ rights.” 

Elmore said he does not think this is an issue of free speech, just an issue of safety and space availability.

“I know that sometimes this gets spun as a free speech conversation,” Elmore said. “I’m not sure that’s what it is. In terms of the speech itself or the speaker, I hope that the students can agree we’ve been fairly neutral about that and this has been more about trying to make sure that we can help them successfully implement a program that they will have been wanting to do for some time.”

Murphy Kaphing, a freshman in Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said she thought that YAF’s article saying BU was undermining conservative voices was not a reasonable claim, and that BU’s reasoning for moving the venue made sense.

“It seems pretty logical for security reasons,” Kaphing said. “I mean, over there, you have doors, and it’s just that room, but [in Metcalf], there’s multiple ways to get there.”

Jack Moriarity, a senior in the College of Communications, said that he believes Shapiro should be welcomed on campus.

“As a listener of Ben Shapiro’s daily show I know he is not any sort of violent or hateful speaker,” Moriarity said. “BU should be more concerned with allowing different opinions on campus than theoretical protesters … They allowed [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] to come and speak, why are they [treating] Ben Shapiro any different?” 

Claire Thomas, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said that safety should be BU’s priority.

“Security reasons make sense to me,” Thomas said. “I think that the safety of the students is priority, and if there’s better safety at one venue, I think that’s fair.”

Editor’s Note: An associate editor at the Daily Free Press is a member of Boston University Young Americans for Freedom. This editor was not involved in the writing or editing of this article in any way.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, the word “prosecution” was mistakenly written as “persecution.” The current version reflects these changes.



  1. Ben Shapiro has done 52 campus appearances for Young America’s Foundation. There has been only one failure to adequately allow students to hear Shapiro and that was caused by the faculty and administrators at California State University at Los Angeles.

    The typical reason for dictating a particular venue–often revealed by subsequently obtaining faculty and administration communications–is to reduce the number of students who can attend and make up their own minds on Shapiro’s talks.

    This article notes there have been no threats of security issues to date. We hope Boston University administrators are not trying to talk themselves into an incident.

    • You seem to be suggesting that BU wants an incident to occur. If you weren’t posting under a fake name, this would be libellous.

  2. If you are curious as to what Ben Shapiro thinks or has to say, there is ample content online. Listen to his pod, watch his YouTube show, read his blog.

    Forcing the university to drop thousands of dollars to benefit one student group is ridiculous to me. That money can be better spent elsewhere.

    • Yet the same could be said for any speaker. Stop pretending to be stupid, if it is indeed an act.
      Ok the university doesn’t wanna drop thousands, suspend any student who shows up to protest words. Problem solved. There are many solutions to this that won’t involve money.
      This is just a liberal idiots ploy to limit the people who can listen whole feigning ignorance

      • You do understand that protesting is free speech right? So in order to secure free speech your grand plan is to punish free speech?

    • Following your suggestion, all that a political group has to do to prevent a speaker from coming to campus is to threaten violence or serious disruption. This creates a need for extensive security, which creates security costs for the university, which means the speaker should be disinvited, since “the money can be better spent elsewhere.”

      I have a better idea. BU should never disinvite a speaker due to security concerns, and anybody that tries to prevent a speaker from speaking through violence or disruption — or the threat thereof — should be punished harshly, up to and including expulsion. In the long run, this will reduce security costs by strongly encouraging people to at least tolerate opposing viewpoints.

  3. By the way, it said that “In a 2014 Youtube video, he said that a majority of Muslims are radicalized. He thinks abortion should be illegal and doctors who perform it could be persecuted”. Did you mean to say, instead of “persecuted”, “prosecuted”.

  4. Statements regarding sensitive topics made by Ben Shapiro should be treated like those made by any one else. If an argument or line of reasoning is false, the interlocutor should show the poor or fallacious reasoning or dismantle the argument. That is how you shot-down thoughts one disagrees with. Shutting down speakers who do not incite violence or use derogatory language but arose intense anger, even hatred is antithetical to Truth emerging in a “free market place of ideas.” It is not difficult to show where an argument is false or where rhetoric usurps reason or any other tactics persuasive speakers deploy in a University setting.

  5. Yea….God forbid that Boston University would incur security costs to offset the extremely liberal bias on campus, better allowing their students to be more informed, instead of allowing thie minds to be dominated by reasoned thought over indoctrination. I would not support one penny of my three grandchildren’s college at BU.

  6. Posted a respectful comment earlier, however, it appears I have been censured by the Student Paper. Point made!

  7. I was under the impression that smart kids go to this school. Interesting.

  8. I was under the impression that smart kids go to this school.

    • Your impression is correct. Inviting a speaker with opposing views and listening to those views is the smart thing to do in order to form your own opinion. After all, smart/intelligent people listen to all perspectives and form their own views. Are you trying to say that smart kids are only smart when they agree with your views? If so, it seems that you would benefit from attending Ben’s lecture.

  9. Michael L Facciola

    I write not to comment on the issue at hand, but rather to laud the very fine news writing of your reporter. This piece is well done: succinct, controlled and sharp. Would that the adversaries in this particular issue cull from your reporter some measure of dispassionate consideration. May I recommend to all John Cardinal Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University. ?

  10. When is Ben going to BU?