Ben Shapiro, a prominent conservative political commentator and editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, will be guest speaking at Baylor in November. One of Shapiro’s employees, Matt Walsh, spoke on Baylor’s campus last semester. His speech opposing gay marriage prompted peaceful protests and a petition with nearly 2,000 signatures in opposition to Walsh’s invitation to campus. Having Walsh’s superior, an even more prominent public figure, come to campus will likely be met with similar public upset.
With Walsh and Shapiro, Baylor may appear to be an environment exclusively for right-wing representation. However, President Linda Livingstone is hosting a lecture series this fall with speakers with diverse perspectives on this hot-button issue. Baylor Conversation Series will feature Justin Lee, who is arguably of equal prominence to Shapiro. Lee will be hosted at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 by the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.
Lee is the founder of The Gay Christian Network, the world’s largest LGBTQ Christian advocacy organization. His work is internationally recognized, and has been featured on mainstream media including Dr. Phil, NPR and The New York Times.
Baylor stated in its Statement on Human Sexuality that it holds onto a “biblical understanding of sexuality as a gift from God.” While holding fast to its Baptist roots, Baylor is opening itself to hear from other points of view.
Lee and other scholars’ presence on campus will hopefully help students feel as though they can dialogue on more level ground.
In President Linda Livingstone’s email ‘Human Sexuality at Baylor University’ on Aug. 27, she said, “It is thus expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.”
In accordance with this rule, Gamma Alpha Upsilon, an LGBTQ organization on campus, has yet to be chartered. Gamma president Elizabeth Benton said she doesn’t believe Baylor’s Baptist faith necessitates excluding the LGBTQ community. Without chartered status, Gamma is unable to rent areas in the SUB for gatherings nor recruit new members at events like Late Night.
The lecture series to come indicates a shift in Baylor’s approach to dissenting opinions. Baylor has not chartered Gamma, but the gesture of inviting a renowned LGBTQ+ advocate, at least elevates some of their points of view to the greater Baylor community.
In its pursuit of becoming a Tier 1 research institution, Baylor must address the existence of a variety of stances. Positions that differ from the mainstream should not go unacknowledged.
Baylor’s Student Policies & Procedures on Campus Speakers holds that “candidates for public office may only be invited to speak on or in University property or facilities provided that the University makes available equal facilities to all other candidates for public office.”
While neither Walsh nor Shapiro are candidates running for office, they are representatives of political issues seeking to push a specific campaign or agenda.
In the name of fair representation, Baylor has made efforts to provide the means for proper debate. While it was a student organization who invited Walsh and Shapiro, Baylor took up the responsibility to provide a counterview.
As a private institution, Baylor is entitled to hold its own beliefs. However, as a university, it holds a duty to its students to provide access to learn about all perspectives. It’s important to give students a choice and allow them to determine what they want to believe. Higher education, particularly at a liberal arts college like Baylor, should broaden the horizons and perspectives of students.
Without exposure to differing viewpoints, students will not be prepared for the diverse political arena waiting for them outside the confines of the Baptist Baylor bubble.
Open discussion between differing viewpoints cultivates greater understanding from both sides.
We’re still at an age where our minds are malleable, and it’s detrimental to only provide one viewpoint.
Nearly 2,000 Baylor Bears wanted to deny Matt Walsh from sharing his views last semester. This semester, hopefully the community can embrace Ben Shapiro alongside Justin Lee. Both sides must learn to respect each other’s right to be heard.
It is time for Baylor’s speakers to better represent the diverse student body they serve. Baylor’s statement on Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion states that the university seeks “to embody Christ’s teachings of love and inclusivity across boundaries of racial, ethnic, gender, socio-economic, religious, and other expressions of human difference.”
You cannot preach inclusivity, but then hand out invitations discriminately. Reaching out to the other side will bring us all together.