A national group that bankrolls conservative speakers on college campuses is stirring up controversy ahead of the scheduled appearance of commentator Katie Pavlich Tuesday at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Young America’s Foundation posted tweets Thursday reporting that UW-Madison officials were preventing public access to Pavlich’s talk, scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Psychology Building, 1202 W. Johnson St.
“This is ridiculous,” Abby Streu, chair of the Madison YAF, the student group that is sponsoring Pavlich, told MacIver News. “We are a publicly funded university. The public should be able to attend.”
The story spread quickly on conservative websites at the same time that UW System Regents prepared for their vote Friday approving a policy — generally lauded by conservatives — that requires expulsion of students who repeatedly disrupt speakers on campus.
YAF hasn’t met the requirements for a public event on campus, UW officials said.
Student groups at UW-Madison can reserve space for events for the university community of students, faculty and staff, spokesman John Lucas told MacIver. But public events require sponsorship by a department, he said, which YAF did not obtain for Pavlich’s appearance.
University officials later posted a statement saying they expected YAF's event to proceed as planned.
"Should the organizers of this event wish to open it to the public, they may still seek an additional sponsor ahead of the event,” reads the statement, which links to campus policy.
No such sponsorship was required last November, when protesters briefly drowned out Ben Shapiro, another speaker brought to campus by YAF, MacIver reported.
Protesters plan to be on hand at the Psychology Building for the appearance of Pavlich, who draws criticism for her far-right opinions. Pavlich will speak on the right to bear arms and the use of guns for self defense, the Daily Cardinal said in its report on the growing controversy. The Cardinal described her as a journalist who has shared her perspective on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and Fox Business and currently serves as the news editor for Townhall.com.
The activist group called “Cocks not Glocks” is planning a protest outside, said anti-gun activist Kat Kerwin.
"Katie Pavlich's invitation is a clear attempt to divide the campus community,” Kerwin said. “Her messaging, that campus rape could be prevented if women carried weapons is deeply offensive, particularly on a campus where 1 in 4 undergraduate females will be sexually assaulted.”
Protesters don’t plan to enter the building, Kerwin said. “In light of the Board of Regents vote around campus speech, the protest represents a chance to safely exercise our freedoms as students while simultaneously shedding light on the absurdity of the speaker's platform in a safe and productive space."
In addition, protesters are planning a series of penis arts projects, according to the group's Facebook page.
Streu, who did not respond Friday to a Cap Times request for comment, told MacIver that it will be hard to find a sponsor at liberal UW-Madison. The website reported Friday, however, that two UW-Madison professors had come forward to sponsor the talk.
Streu also sounded the outrage displayed by some conservatives over the fact that UW-Madison Police did not stop protesters from disrupting Shapiro’s speech, saying she hopes she can count on them Tuesday.
"What I told the UW police department is, people are allowed to protest. I respect their right to do that, but they are not respecting our group's right to be heard. It's a two-way street," she said.
Pavlich used the controversy to drum up attendance, or perhaps tweak authority, by tweeting her followers an invitation to her speech.