Perhaps students at the University of Florida (UF) thought their tuition money was safeguarded before it was uncovered that the university spent $50,000 of mandatory student fees to host Donald Trump, Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, on their campus this past October. This, predictably, caused outrage among the student body and raised questions about how universities should be spending students' tuition money.
It is our belief that, while universities should absolutely use tuition dollars to book speakers that engage, challenge and educate students (no matter where they stand on a political spectrum), that money needs to come from the appropriate place.
We at LMU are no strangers to controversial speakers. Last year’s Ben Shapiro event, for example, caused weeks of intense discourse. However, funding for that event did not come from the University directly.
LMU policy on guest speakers states that costs and activity for hosting a guest speaker are “the responsibility of the Registered Student Organization or Departmental Student Program.”
“As someone who has had to review funding regulations for ASLMU extensively, it is bizarre to me that the [UF] student body president had this much freedom with such a substantial amount of funding,” said Emily Sinsky, the vice president of ASLMU and a senior international relations major.
Many may argue, however, that a university should not spend students' money on speakers that challenge or go against the general opinion of the student body. We disagree, and believe that controversial or unpopular speakers should be hosted at LMU. Challenging voices can help students grow more than popular voices. A speaker is only a problem when the money used to host them is supposed to be used for University advancement.
“We also have to look at the framework in which [UF’s student body president] was acting, because if their guidelines allow this type of behavior, then they should change them,” Sinsky said. “That's not even an issue with hosting someone as politically charged as Donald Trump, Jr., that's just bad practice for student government itself to give the president so much power.”
Elected leaders in ASLMU, as well as institutional leaders like the university President simply need to be transparent about what said money is for and how it is spent. As long as LMU follows the guidelines it sets for itself, there are no problems.