The Young Democrats and College Republicans of Boise State hosted a forum in the Student Union Building’s Hatch Ballroom on Sept. 25, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The forum largely focused on political science professor and College Republicans advisor Scott Yenor’s article “Transgender Activists Are Seeking to Undermine Parental Rights.”
The presidents of the Young Democrats and College Republicans came together to debate Yenor’s article, free speech, the LGBTQ community, DACA and Charlottesville.
Sources within and outside of their organizations created questions. Neither president was allowed to see these questions until the forum began.
The College Republicans’ questions were generated by its Vice President chair Ben Swartout and Secretary Amelia Albanese. The Young Democrats’ questions were formulated by multiple sources: the creators of the original petition for firing Yenor, caucus chair of the LGBTQ Idaho Democrat Party and Young Democrats members.
Before the forum, all questions formulated by the two organizations were sent to communication professor Rulon Wood, who moderated the debate.
“I think it’s important to say that I didn’t want to offend anyone, so I realized that I am coming from a place of privilege,” said President of the Young Democrats Joe Goode. “I’m white; I’m hetero; I’m a male.”
Both presidents of the Young Democrats and College Republicans expressed anticipation for the debate specifically directed towards Yenor’s article and his pending consequences.
“This forum is something that I’m passionate about. I don’t believe any teacher should be persecuted for her or his opinions,” said President Chair of the College Republicans Ben Chafetz.
For the portion of the debate centered on this topic, Goode deferred to Dalton Tiegs, a member of the Inclusive Excellence Council. Goode did, however, agree that Yenor’s article represents freedom of speech, but expressed that freedom of speech comes with consequences.
“Yes, it is his freedom of speech to say this. But freedom of speech does come with repercussion, and people must realize that. And people must realize—especially in this community we’ve seen so much hate crimes towards our LGBT community–-there is actually an issue with this and how this teacher’s article may have spiked up this anti-sentiment towards this community,” Goode said.
However, Chafetz defends Yenor’s article as a form of free-speech unconnected to Boise State and takes the stance that the attempt to berate Yenor is the opposite of positive change.
“If you use the school for your vessel for sending a message and manipulating students, I think that’s wrong-–especially when it’s a publicly run campus. But if you are condemning (Yenor’s article), then you are even more fascist than you are purporting to hate,” Chafetz said. “Yenor was quoting research. So honestly, it wasn’t that much of an opinion article as it’s made out to be. He was just saying this study showed this in regards to family. It’s hard to say if I disagree with any of it.”
However, Goode questions if Boise State’s image has been put on the line because of Yenor’s action.
“It goes beyond freedom of speech and it goes to the point of what Boise State stands for and what this teacher is saying instead,” Goode said.
Goode went on to explain his view that Yenor’s stance sent a hateful, incorrect message–a discriminating message that, Goode believes, only provoked hostility toward the LGBTQ community on and off campus.
“The school is going to say it stands for equality, openness and diversity; that’s obviously not what Dr. Yenor wrote, and instead the article is alienating, it’s grotesque and it makes a lot of generalizations and assertions that are not even close to correct towards an already marginalized community that has seen more hate crimes perpetrated towards it than any other group in society—twice as many as African Americans,” Goode said.
Concerning the forum and other possible College Republicans and Young Democrats’ events, Albanese stressed the importance of a good relationship between the two groups.
“We want to show that Republicans and Democrats can come together and work together, and that it’s not so divided as people think,” Albanese said.