Letter to the Editor: Recent op-ed inconsistent with position on open discourse

I organized and supervised the Steven Crowder event on Jan. 22 and thought it went quite well. Outside of a couple of protestors, I think a lot of students would agree with me. One such protestor was Nicholas Provenghi, who wrote an op-ed in the Jan. 28 issue of The Mercury titled “Steven Crowder harms debate: Change my mind.” I would hate for his article to be the main takeaway from our event, so I hope to respond to some complaints that he and other protestors raised and engage in a little discourse of my own. 

First, many wonder why we invited Steven in the first place, a question that has been lobbed at my organization since the previous time he was here. The answer to this is simple. Almost every student organization tries to bring speakers occasionally to gather interest to their respective organizations, and many of these speakers charge high fees. When we invite Steven Crowder here to film his “Change My Mind” videos, it doesn’t cost us a penny, but it also generates a substantial amount of student interest in our weekly meetings.

Second, some have said that hosting an event centered on a debate about a border wall is racist or xenophobic since UTD is a very diverse campus. This view is untenable. Had Crowder gone to a predominantly white campus to talk about building a wall, the accusation would have been that the students he was interviewing would not be diverse enough. They cannot have it both ways, and the way I see it, UTD’s diversity probably led to more interesting responses.

Third, there is the accusation that Steven Crowder is simply too provocative to contribute anything positive to the UTD student body. While it is Crowder’s job to make hot-button issues such as gun ownership or combatting illegal immigration interesting and digestible for people on the internet, that has not endangered quality discourse on our campus. In fact, I would suggest it has led to more meaningful and higher quality conversations on campus. UTD often seems like a relatively apolitical school, so it can be difficult to gauge what students think of these issues. That is one of the reasons why it is useful to bring someone like Crowder here intermittently. It helps give a snapshot of what students think about divisive issues, whether in the event itself or the coverage following it. UTD is filled with bright students, so I expect that a lot of students can give substantive responses to whatever view Crowder chooses to articulate.

If you think I’m wrong, come to a UT Dallas College Republican meeting and change my mind.

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