Dennis Prager addresses student concerns, leftists on campus during CSU lecture

Stuart Smith and Natalia Sperry

Colorado State University’s Turning Point USA chapter hosted conservative talk show host Dennis Prager Monday night in the Lory Student Center Ballroom.

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people pose for photo
Dennis Prager, center, poses for a photo with Shekinah Geist, left, and Abigail Stewart, right, after his lecture in the Lory Student Center on Oct. 29. (Matt Tackett | Collegian)

During Prager’s talk titled “Why America Needs Traditional Values to Triumph,” he discussed his views on freedom of speech and the use of student fees to fund his appearance.

Prager said that labels like racist, xenophobic and homophobic — which he said have falsely been attributed to him — are used to prevent people from interacting with conservative ideas that differ from their own.

“One of the many differences between the left and the right, is the right wants to hear the left,” Prager said. “The left doesn’t want to hear the right because we might change their mind.”

Prager read aloud from a Collegian article, which quoted several students who came before the Associated Students of CSU Senate Oct. 4 to express concerns about the event.

In response, Prager said people who believe those statements are lying or falsely think they’re telling the truth.

“Is the safety of queer, Muslim and female students jeopardized by my appearance? That’s beyond belief,” Prager said. “My life, as corny as it sounds, has been dedicated to goodness. The thing I most care about is that people treat each other good … It’s like living in a world of absurdity.”

Prager responded to each of the claims made by the students who expressed concern over his appearance on campus to the ASCSU Senate. First, he referenced a previous instance where he debated the head of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, asking why he would’ve been invited to do so if he was a danger to Muslim students.

Prager said that, while he is religiously opposed to same-sex marriage, he and his wife are the godparents of a gay couple’s two children. In regards to claims that he would make female students feel unsafe, Prager addressed what he claims to be the lie of rape culture on college campuses and claims that he supports marital rape.

“Now here’s an example where I believe that they don’t believe their lies, and I’ll tell you why: Why would any female attend a rape-culture college?” Prager asked. “Why would any parent of a daughter, why would anyone in America send their daughter to a rape culture?”

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During the Q&A session that followed, one student referenced a video played earlier in the night from Prager University called “Why I Left the Left” by Dave Rubin. The student asked why conservatives shouldn’t have to support things such as baking cakes for gay marriages while students should have to pay $13,999 to bring Prager to campus, on the basis of free speech.

“Is the safety of queer, Muslim and female students jeopardized by my appearance? That’s beyond belief. My life, as corny as it sounds, has been dedicated to goodness. The thing I most care about is that people treat each other good … It’s like living in a world of absurdity.” Dennis Prager, Conservative talshow host.

Prager said that, although he does not know how student funding works at CSU, he presumes the student government must vote on whether or not to use student fees to bring speakers to campus. TPUSA requested the maximum dollar amount for a student-fee-funded event from the Board for Student Organization Funding without needing Senate approval, which Prager said came down to a matter of practicality.

“I suspect from the reactions of a fair number of 1,200 or so people here, that believe it or not — though they may be hidden ‘cause they’re afraid so often to speak out, conservatives — there are a lot of them here,” Prager said. “I would’ve been voted down because most of the students here (are) on the left. Do you think that would be healthy for the University?”

After the event, students who attended in protest of Prager by wearing stickers that read “I Believe Survivors” said the lecture did not change their perspective on any of the issues brought up.

“It just really enabled racists, homophobics, anti-Semites (and) anti-Islamic people,” said Yuridia Lozano Gutierrez, a sophomore social work major. “It just enabled them to continue being the messed up people that they are. It just enabled it.  … People are very ignorant. And they won’t listen to anything and they won’t hear anything else.”

Kimberley Breslin, a senior social work major, who hosted a speak-out on the Free Speech Stump earlier in the day Monday with several other students, said that rather than counter-protesting the event, the intent was to hold a space for people who are experiencing a lot of pain on this campus right now, which she said Prager added to.

A man signs a small book.
Conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager, right, chats with Tyler Hanson, left, following his speech on campus on Oct. 29, 2018. (Forrest Czarnecki | Collegian)

“We have a lot of people who feel extremely alone right now on campus, and we have a lot of people who are facing a lot of anger and loneliness and pain and oppression,” Breslin said. “I think there needs to be a space where we can hold each other and we can hold each other across difference and we can come together in unity and in love, so that is what we wanted to do.”

Isabel Brown, president of CSU’s chapter of TPUSA, said the nearly 1,200 people in attendance, many of whom she said were students, got an opportunity to engage in some very needed political dialogue on our campus.

“I had a few students come up to me after the event and just express that they weren’t expecting to agree with the speaker on anything but that they actually did and that was a lovely surprise,” Brown said. “I think ultimately what people don’t realize is that the right and the left tend to agree on more things than they think and as long as we’re willing to have the conversation people will learn that.”

Stuart Smith and Natalia Sperry can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian