Students Seek Balance in Speaker Series

Michael Kimmel speaks at Seminole State College Feb. 6.
By Melissa Woodford

Seminole State College students and alumni have recently expressed interest in seeing more balance in the College’s speaker series topics.

The last three speakers who were invited to lecture are Naomi Wolf, a feminist and author; Michael Kimmel, noted as “the world’s most prominent male feminist” by The Guardian; and Ryan Sallans, a sexuality educator who speaks of his transition from female to male.

“If you are insistent that you are for free speech and that you wish for everyone to have their voice heard and you believe that college is a place where ideas can be shared, then you should want to invite other conservatives to speak,” said Kirsten Zima, a mathematics major who graduated from SSC in 2016.

Zima talked about the importance of the First Amendment and the significance of having open college debate where a wide range of views are presented.

“You see free speech being suppressed so much these days,” Zima said, “and this country is so unique that you can have free speech.” She said if SSC’s speaker series hopes to be balanced and open to presenting a wide range of ideas, it would do well to invite more conservative speakers this year to help round out perspectives.

When some faculty were asked about this, they declined to go on the record. Dr. Jordan Camenker, a legal studies professor, however, weighed in.

“I think that it’s great to have multiple views,” Camenker said. “I think that we are dangerously homogeneous when we don’t, and we do the students a disservice. Now I’m not speaking to those particular speakers because I didn’t go to any of those, … but generally, like I said, my cure for that is to bring [speakers] in on both sides.”

When asked whether conservative commentators such as Ben Shapiro—a columnist, author and radio talk show host—could speak on campus, Camenker replied: “If I were to do it—I’m just speaking realistically here—if I were to do it without securing some assurances or permissions from [those in] power, I’d be in trouble.”

Camenker attributed the main concern with inviting a speaker like Shapiro to heightened security costs. He said inviting conservative speakers onto college campuses has the precedence of creating riots, but not when it is the other way around.

“Ironically, there isn’t the danger on the left, …” he said, “conservative students don’t tend to rise up and riot and burn classrooms and bash out windows. In fact, Bernie Sanders, during the 2016 [presidential primary] campaign, spoke at Liberty University [in Virginia]. He was well received; [they] treated him with respect.”

Ellie Larson, a dual enrolled student, said she agreed there should be more balance in Seminole State’s speaker series.

“I think inviting [a more conservative speaker] would be more than fair,” Larson said. “I think it would be almost a little bit unfair to just invite Ben Shapiro [and not other conservatives], but I think that that would be a great start.”

Camenker noted that he has sponsored debates with conservative speakers in the past and even suggested ways students could invite alternate speakers. He recommended inviting Shapiro for a public debate on or near campus. He also suggested holding a live Skype session with Shapiro where his image could be projected onto a large screen in order to mitigate security costs. Additionally, he proposed inviting a more moderate conservative.”

Kelly Woodford, another dual enrolled student, said she believes it would be more than fair to try to follow up with either of Camenker’s recommendations to get Shapiro on campus. She also believes it would be fair to invite other conservatives such as Roaming Millennial, a YouTube personality.

Students indicated that they are working to see whether they can implement these ideas.

For more information, visit the speaker series webpage at www.seminolestate.edu/speaker-series/.

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