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Dinesh D’Souza invited to speak on campus, funding request pending

Stanford College Republicans aim to host controversial conservative speaker

The Stanford College Republicans (SCR) have submitted a Standard Grant application to the Undergraduate Senate to host Dinesh D’Souza, a far-right author and filmmaker, on campus on Jan. 16. Among other attacks, D’Souza has previously suggested that the 2017 Charlottesville white nationalist rally was staged and that President Barack Obama was carrying out the “anti-colonial” agenda of his Kenyan father while in office.

D’Souza also joked about the Holocaust in a Stony Brook University talk earlier this year, falsely claimed that Adolf Hitler was not anti-gay and retweeted Twitter posts with the hashtags #burntheJews and #bringbackslavery. In 2014, he pleaded guilty to a felony charge after making illegal contributions to a 2012 U.S. Senate campaign but received a full pardon from President Donald Trump in May.

The College Republicans’ invitation to D’Souza is the latest in a string of controversial speakers whom the organization has brought to Stanford and who have underscored the tension between free speech and community inclusion that has pervaded political discourse at Stanford and at colleges nationwide. Last November, the group led efforts to bring self-proclaimed Islamophobe Robert Spencer to campus. In June, the group hosted a “Make Stanford Great Again” event featuring Turning Point USA (TPUSA) conservative activists Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens.

It is not clear whether D’Souza has accepted the College Republicans’ invitation. Neither D’Souza nor the College Republicans responded to requests for comment.

SCR is now requesting $6,000 from the Undergraduate Senate for the event, according to a funding application leaked to The Daily. Of the requested money, $3,500 would go toward security for the event.

The College Republicans also received $6,000 from the Undergraduate Senate to fund the Spencer event last fall, according to Senate funding files.  

Before the Undergraduate Senate would vote to grant SCR the funding to host D’Souza, SCR would need Student Activities and Leadership’s (SAL) approval to host the talk. To obtain such approval, SCR would need to register the event in CardinalSync, a web portal for student groups. According to a student with administrative access to CardinalSync, the event has not yet been registered in the portal.

Despite repeated requests for comment, SAL declined to elaborate on the matter.

Last year, the 19th Undergraduate Senate proposed a bill that would have allowed the Senate to deny funding to groups who invited speakers perceived to be in violation of the Fundamental Standard. Although the 19th Senate’s did not vote on this version of the bill, it modified and approved the measure at its final meeting of the 2017-18 school year to instead establish the Working Group on Student Group Funding Policies and the Fundamental Standard. This group is charged with implementing “best practices” for holding student organizations accountable for the guests they host. 

Whether other University entities will fund the event is also unclear. The Hoover Institution, a conservative-leaning campus think tank, is listed on the application as a partner SCR works with “in the community,” but it is not specified whether that partnership includes financial involvement for the D’Souza invitation.

Last spring, the Institution provided financial support for a SCR event that may have been the Kirk/Owens talk but was never confirmed as such.

The Hoover Institution’s Media Relations Coordinator Marlon Bateman and Associate Director for Public Affairs Eryn Tillman did not respond to requests for comment.

Because the Undergraduate Senate will continue to accept Standard Grant applications until Nov. 9, the Senate has yet to review SCR’s request, according to Senator Leya Elias ’21.

As of now, the Senate’s stance on the matter is unclear. In a statement to The Daily on behalf of the student government, recently appointed Academic Freedom Director Zintis Inde Ph.D. ’19 said that leadership within the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) is committed to the ideals of free speech the First Amendment protects. Inde also said the ASSU is prepared to “promote a principled community response” to incidents of free speech that marginalize community members, despite such statements being technically legal.

Inde did not indicate the likelihood of the funding request being approved.

“Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, religious hatred and other forms of hate and discrimination against marginalized communities are antithetical to the values of our Stanford community,” Inde wrote. “In our current political climate, some Stanford students may espouse these views or provide a platform for others who promote them in order to cast themselves as martyrs in the ‘free speech wars’ that these individuals are intent on waging.”

D’Souza rose to prominence in 1991 with the publication of his first book, “Illiberal Education,” which criticized political correctness and multiculturalism. Since then he has published over a dozen books, including “The End of Racism” — which built on his first book’s critique of liberal attitudes toward race and gender — and “The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left,” which, along with his recent film, “Death of a Nation,” asserts that the Democratic party is composed of modern day Nazis and fascists.

D’Souza’s presidential pardon released him of an eight-month confinement sentence and 52 months probation for using straw donors to donate $20,000 to a Republican Senate candidate in New York, surpassing the personal donation limit of $5,000. D’Souza claims he was politically targeted because of his opposition to Obama, a claim that Judge Richard M. Berman, who presided over D’Souza’s case, dismissed as “nonsense.”

If he comes to campus, D’Souza’s visit to Stanford would not be his first. In 1996, he debated Reverend Jesse Jackson on affirmative action and Proposition 209, a California measure which successfully “[eliminated] state and local government affirmative action programs in the areas of public employment, public education and public contracting.”

From 1998 to 2000, D’Souza was also a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

D’Souza has also recently escalated his involvement in campus conservative activism. In June, he partnered with the Young America’s Foundation (YAF), a conservative youth organization, on a campus lecture tour during the 2018-2019 academic year. Last December, D’Souza also spoke at TPUSA’s Student Action Summit alongside other speakers such as Kirk, Ben Shapiro and Donald Trump Jr.

This article has been updated to reflect that the ASSU’s bill to establish a Working Group on Student Group Funding Policies was passed at the end of last year. 

Erin Woo contributed reporting.

Contact Julia Ingram at jmingram ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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