Bhargav ArimilliLife & Arts Editor
Steven Crowder, a conservative political commentator, was asked to leave campus after he conducted a series of interviews with UTD students without permission from the university. The YouTube video of the interviews has since garnered over 1 million views.
The video, “I’m Pro-Gun: Change My Mind,” features Crowder talking with two students about the Second Amendment and gun control efforts. During the second interview, UTD officials are seen asking him to leave, prompting a discussion about the circumstances of his removal.
A 22-minute long clip of the Oct. 20 event, uploaded to Crowder’s YouTube channel on Oct. 21, is part of his series titled “Real Conversations,” in which he challenges members of the public to change his stance on a variety of political issues.
In the last 30 seconds of the video, UTD police officers, called by SU staff, can be seen approaching Crowder and asking whether he’s a UTD student. Meanwhile, students attempt to block the cameras, and the footage ends when the police officers ask Crowder for identification.
UTD PD said because the incident was not a crime, there was no report filed. However, they confirmed Crowder violated university policy by not seeking permission from the university in advance.
After the video was posted on YouTube, users on the UTD sub-Reddit reacted to Crowder’s removal, concerned that it may have been tied to his conservative ideology.
“Who the actual hell were the people calling the cops and blocking the cameras?” Alec Winter, a computer science freshman and self-described fan of Crowder, wrote on the Reddit thread. “Were they that offended by a different opinion?”
Andrew Helgeson, an assistant director of the Student Union, said Crowder’s removal wasn’t related to the content of the event, but to the fact that Crowder and his team did not file the appropriate paperwork with the university. In the video, Helgeson can be seen speaking with UTD police officers before they approach Crowder at his booth.
“Typically, I’ll contact the campus police to help me get the people to leave campus just so they know that we’re serious about it,” Helgeson said. “I’ve talked to campus police and they appreciate when I come out with them too just to explain this is a policy thing (and that) we’re not against what you’re doing or what the idea behind your event is.”
Part of the misconception lies in the fact that UTD is a public university, Helgeson said.
“A lot of groups will come and say, ‘It’s a public campus, I can do what I want,’” he said. “It’s public in that anyone can apply here. It’s not public in that people can just come do whatever they want.”
Sami Shaik, a computer engineering freshman, was one of the two students interviewed in the video, and said he witnessed the event in its entirety.
“I was just walking to the library and two people were running past me saying, ‘Steven Crowder’s here,’” Shaik said. “This was after the Las Vegas shooting and I thought this talk really needed to happen. I thought (Crowder) was a UTD administrator or someone in UTD.”
Shaik was seated next to Crowder at a table on the Plinth when university officials approached Crowder. Shaik said Crowder told the officials that his staff had submitted all the paperwork needed to hold an event on campus.
Shaik said an administrator then pointed out that if he made all the arrangements in advance, SU staff would have set up the table for him. Shaik said Crowder then said it was his right to hold the event on public university grounds.
Crowder’s camera crew then stopped filming and began to pack up, Shaik said. Five minutes after the police initially arrived, Crowder and his camera crew left UTD.
“(Crowder) kept on saying, ‘You’re silencing these kids, you’re not letting conservatives talk,’” Shaik said. “No one then responded much.”
CRTV, the media agency representing Crowder, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Once Shaik realized that Crowder wasn’t affiliated with the university, he asked Crowder to remove his video from the interview as Crowder and his team were preparing to leave UTD. Despite Shaik’s request, his interview was still included in the video.
“I don’t really mind that my interview’s up,” he said. “I just hate that he didn’t go through the proper channels.”
Alec Winter said although Crowder may not have sought permission in advance, his removal from campus was indicative of a larger problem at UTD.
“I don’t know the legality of what he was doing,” Winter said. “I’m less mad at the cops for throwing him off because they might have just been doing their job. I feel it was because of the topic he was talking about. If he had a sign that said, ‘I’m pro-choice: Change My Mind,’ I think he would have been there from dawn till dusk and nobody would have said a thing.”
Winter said the incident prompted him to think more about the role of free speech on college campuses.
“I think it’s something we really need to start thinking about, because I feel like with both sides of the spectrum there’s a lot of double standards in terms of free speech.”
Additional reporting by Maddie Keith