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ASUNM President Kyle Biederwolf speaks during a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017 at the SUB.

ASUNM President Kyle Biederwolf speaks during a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017 at the SUB.

ASUNM funds $10,000 to host conservative speakers

EDITOR'S NOTE: The original version of this story named Hallie Brown as a current ASUNM senator, when she was an ASUNM senator in the past. She attended this meeting and made her comments in her capacity as a UNM student. The Daily Lobo apologizes for the error, and the story has since been changed to reflect. 

The UNM College Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom will be receiving funding from the Associated Students of UNM through appropriations to host two guest speakers, Christina Hoff Sommers and Ben Shapiro, at the University.

UNM College Republicans requested funding for Sommers, and YAF requested funding for Shapiro. Both groups received $5,000, funding 50 percent of the speaker fees for each.

Hallie Brown, a UNM student who was an ASUNM senator in the past, said that while these speakers are free to say what they like because of the right of freedom of speech, she does not think these particular speakers should appear at UNM on the students’ dime.

“While I do believe that these speakers shouldn’t be barred from speaking on our campus, I do think ASUNM should consider the implications of fully funding these speakers. In light of the Department of Justice investigation and agreements regarding the sexual response on campus, it is problematic to bring a speaker like Christina Hoff Sommers to our institution,” Brown said. “She is an avid victim-blamer, she actively participates in rape culture, and that is something our campus is trying to combat.”

Citing a study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Brown said Sommers was quoted as saying in the study, “I mean, if a woman was unconscious or incapacitated, then every civilized person would call it rape. But what about sex while inebriated? Few people would say that intoxicated sex alone constitutes rape.”

Brown also called out Shapiro, who served for several years as editor for the controversial right-wing website Breitbart News.

“Ben Shapiro promotes exclusivity, specifically devaluing the experience for people of color and blatantly ignoring the importance of diversity of thought,” Brown said. “I would hate to think ASUNM would support funding someone who’s so aggressively against what makes UNM one of the best places to be, that being our diversity. UNM’s motto is ‘each of us defines all of us,’ and I think fully funding these speakers would not do justice to our diverse campus culture.”

Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) President Sierra Ludington voiced concerns regarding student fees funding the speakers’ appearances.

“While we have no interest in denying freedom of speech, we just feel like this money should not be coming from our student fees,” Ludington said. “The University has already put thousands of dollars into the Milo (Yiannopoulos) event.”

Senator Francine Briones said that ASUNM cannot reject funding requests from these organizations for these speakers just because students do not agree with where their student fees are going.

Briones provided, as an example, the Supreme Court case of “Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth” to validate her argument.

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Briones said in that case, a student at the University of Wisconsin, Scott Harold Southworth, did not like the way his student funds were being allocated.

Southworth petitioned to not pay student fees since he did not want his money going to groups he didn’t agree with. The university disagreed, and Southworth sued the university.

The first court ruled in favor of Southworth, that he should be able to withhold his student fees because they didn’t align with his beliefs, Briones said.

However, when the case came before the Supreme Court, they ruled that “the First Amendment permits a public university to charge its students an activity fee used to fund a program to facilitate extracurricular student speech, provided that the program is viewpoint neutral.”

Briones said this set a precedent that universities do have the right to impose mandatory fees so long as they are allocated “in a viewpoint-neutral fashion.”

“We cannot make a decision based on a student not wanting their fees to go to this (event). We have to go by what this says,” Briones said.

UNM College Republicans Chairwoman Marina Herrera and YAF President-elect Abraham Keyvan spoke on behalf of their organizations, asking ASUNM not to combine their speaking fees and promote the two speakers.

“We would like to bring to light that we have been told students don’t support the opinions of these speakers, but that is one of the reasons we want to bring these speakers,” Herrera said. “As our active president Chaouki Abdallah said, ‘Our University can’t survive by saying we are going to start censoring because it gets tighter and tighter until eventually we are not having conversations about real topics.’ Because these speakers are so controversial, that’s why we want to bring them.”

The first appropriation on the agenda was UNM College Republicans requesting funding for both a conference they were currently attending and for $5,000 to pay for speaker fees. It was suggested by Senator Sydnie O’Connell to lower the funding for the speaker fees to $2,500.

“This event that this organization is wanting to bring will affect about 600 students — that’s about $8.33 per student,” O’Connell said. “I don’t think is logically sound and financially responsible.”

ASUNM Attorney General Sara Collins then pointed out that, regarding the conference both student organizations were currently attending, ASUNM is not permitted to fund any event that has already started.

Due to this rule, all sections of the appropriations connected to funding the groups’ attending of the conference was set to zero by the undergraduate student governing body.

It was then motioned to move the funding for speaker fees back to $5,000, since ASUNM could not pay for the conference they previously agreed to fund. That motion passed.

Denicia Aragon is a staff reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @deniciaaragon98.


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