NOV. 19 UPDATE from Chris Tremoglie: The event did go off and without controversy. About 20 protesters showed up, holding signs but remaining silent in the back row during the speech. The signs stated such things as “Our right to exist is not up for debate” and “Multiculturalism is america” and “No one is illegal on stolen land.” One protesters said that those looking to illegally immigrate into the U.S. were doing so because they were desperate from the horrific aftermath of U.S. led imperialistic military efforts. 

Jay Smith, a Penn College Republican, commented via Facebook chat on Dinesh D’Souza’s ability to skillfully answer questions meant to challenge him:

“I feel like D’Souza masterfully refuted the question he received about why aren’t we changing the legal immigration system that even D’Souza admits is broken. It’s true that America is a generous country, but if we let in every single person around the world who’s poor or starving, we’d have to consider half of the entire world as refugees. And that’s not even considering the people we have poor and starving in our own country.

“But the Democrats are unwilling to modify the system to allow more immigrants into the country who love America and want to apply themselves here because they realize the broken system works in their favor. I think that was a point where people realized D’Souza, as an immigrant, knew how much he cherished immigration but was willing to criticize the system and those unwilling to fix it.”

The original posting:

Author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza is scheduled to speak at Penn Tuesday. 

“Scheduled” because D’Souza is a conservative author and filmmaker. And nothing involving conservatives on a college campus is ever easy or certain. Faculty, administrators and students often preach tolerance and understanding of other points of view, but often abandon these principles when someone from the right side of the aisle is invited to speak. 

It’s a nationwide phenomenon, which has seen varying levels of protest and confrontation at schools like Evergreen State University in Washington state, the University of California, Berkeley, and Middlebury College in Vermont.  

Will members of the Penn community do something to help their school join that undistinguished list tomorrow? 

Things are not off to a promising start. 

The event, “A Legal Immigrant’s Case Against Multiculturalism with Dinesh D’Souza,” was organized by the Penn College Republicans as part of the Young America’s Foundation Preserving American Liberty and Freedom Lecture Series and scheduled for Nov. 12 in the ARCH building on campus. The Penn community and public were invited. Here’s how it was described on the College Republicans’ Facebook page:  

Join the Penn College Republicans for an evening with conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, where he will discuss his views on immigration and multiculturalism (the doctrine that all cultures are equal). The event will be followed by Q&A from the audience. 

Last week, according to the College Republicans, the university revoked the venue without giving a reason and, because of security concerns, disinvited the public. The school was also insisting on a $1,000 security fee. 

“Members of the Penn community may disagree with a particular speaker … but having conversations about those differences is part of what makes universities such as Penn essential locations for free inquiry, free expression, debate, and dialogue.” 

Danielle Yampolsky, president of the College Republicans, told the Young America’s Foundation, “I was incredibly shocked and disappointed to receive this email, especially at such short notice. Nevertheless, I am committed to promoting free speech and diversity of thought on Penn’s campus and am looking forward to getting this resolved and welcoming Mr. D’Souza to campus.” 

This revocation comes about two weeks after the abrupt cancellation of a bipartisan symposium entitled “Detention and Deportation from Obama to Trump.” Campus security cleared the room after protesters demonstrated against the presence of retired Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Thomas Homan. At the time of the protest, Homan was on stage at Penn’s Perry World House with Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, director of children and family services at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and Sozi Tulante, former city solicitor of Philadelphia.  

Fox News reported that, even before the event started, a petition had been circulated demanding its cancellation. The petition, signed by more than 500 Penn students and alumni, as well as dozens of students from other universities, also called on Penn to ban all invitations to current or former officials from ICE or U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. “[I]nviting Homan as a guest speaker contradicts Penn’s claim of being a sanctuary campus,” the petition said. 

One student told me in an interview, “What happened to diversity, acceptance and tolerance? I came to this panel because I wanted to hear both perspectives in person. We don’t get that in class.” 

“Before the event even began, chanting by some members of the audience made it impossible to hold a constructive conversation,” Perry World House Communications Director John Gans told the Daily Pennsylvanian in an email. “Since our founding, Perry World House has been deeply engaged with the timely and sensitive issue of immigration. 

“Members of the Penn community may disagree with a particular speaker at these events, but having conversations about those differences is part of what makes universities such as Penn essential locations for free inquiry, free expression, debate, and dialogue,” Gans continued.

That same spirit prompted the invitation to D’Souza. Cory Paredes, communications director for the Penn College Republicans, appeared on “The Dean Malik Show” Friday on WWDB-AM (860).  

“We decided to invite Dinesh D’Souza to Penn to give a presentation regarding multiculturalism and in particular how building a unified American culture, where we can identify under the same flag, the same value system, and really fight for our country, is in the best interest of everyone here,” Paredes said. “Unfortunately, the University of Pennsylvania has had some trouble lately enforcing their open expression policy. Penn officially supports freedom of speech, they support diverse viewpoints, but their student body does not.”  

He added, “They closed our event to the public, canceled the venue we had booked without providing a new one. We’re trying to get a new venue scheduled but at the eleventh hour it is very difficult for us to find a new one. We’re hoping that it will work out but as of now the event is very much in limbo.” 

In fact, later that day, the D’Souza event found a new home, in the Hall of Flags in Houston Hall on campus. Penn did not relent on allowing the public into the event. It is for Penn students only, and that, at least, is a start. 

“As Penn College Republicans, we believe it is incredibly important for us to start to change the culture in a university that is historically and presently incredibly liberal, not only in the faculty but in the student body,” Paredes told Malik. 

The free expression of ideas is supposed to be a benchmark of academia. Let’s see if Penn can rededicate itself to that standard Tuesday at Houston Hall, where Dinesh D’Souza is “scheduled” to speak. 

Chris Tremoglie, a University of Pennsylvania student, is chairman of the Conservative Caucus of the Penn Political Union.

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