Matt Walsh visit sparks controversy

Protesters+gather+in+the+halls+of+Gregory+Hall+as+political+commentator+Matt+Walsh+visits+campus+to+speak+on+Thursday.+

Jacob Slabosz

Protesters gather in the halls of Gregory Hall as political commentator Matt Walsh visits campus to speak on Thursday.

By Lika Lezhava and Nicole Littlefield

The University branch of the Young Americans for Freedom hosted a screening of right-wing political commentator Matt Walsh’s documentary “What is a Woman” on Thursday.

The event sparked controversy on campus, with students from the Campus Union for Trans Equality and Support and others who opposed Walsh’s visit gathering in front of Gregory Hall to protest with signs, flags and chants.

“I’m here to fight for my right to exist,” said Leaf Newman, senior in LAS, who was one of the many protesters standing outside of the building.

Emily Goodman, freshman in Engineering and one of the protestors at the event, said Walsh’s documentary is  “transphobic.” Goodman carried a sign that read “transitioning saves lives.”

“There’s a difference between Matt and someone who’s legitimately coming here trying to ask the question, ‘What is a woman?’ because that is an important question to ask, where Matt Walsh is asking that to be transphobic,” Goodman said.

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Bailey Parks-Moore, the chairwoman for YAF at the University, introduced Walsh at the event Thursday night.

“The whole point of our event is to bring about another set of ideas,” Parks-Moore said. “We want to talk to students on the other side because, in my personal experience, I just get shut down for saying something that people disagree with.”

According to Parks-Moore, flyers advertising the event were ripped down within minutes after they were posted on the Main Quad.

“As you can see, (protestors) have written with chalk everywhere across our campus,” she added.

Since its release in June, Walsh’s documentary has caused much online discourse regarding gender and transgender issues. 

Some students were disappointed that the University allowed Walsh to speak on campus. Azer Matten, senior in FAA and president of CUTES, voiced their opinion on the matter.

“Most of the time, it doesn’t even reach the attention of people higher up unless there’s a lot of noise made about it,” Matten said.

Others, such as Camryn Martinez, were “excited” to hear Walsh speak. Martinez said she drove two hours with a friend and they waited in line for over an hour to see him.

“It’s exciting!” Martinez said. “When you watch someone for so long to see them in person — it’s pretty cool.”

According to Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for Public Affairs at the University, the event was not University sponsored and said that Walsh’s “ability to present his views is protected by the first amendment.”

“As always, Student Affairs staff members have met with the RSO’s organizers to review safety protocol, and we will have University of Illinois Police Department officers at the event to ensure it happens safely,” Kaler said in an email.

Alex Rosado-Torres, assistant director of the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center, said multiple RSO leadership teams came together to organize. Rosado-Torres said the ability of several groups to come together to protest was “empowering.”

“I’ve actually been very empowered, so to say, by our students organizing and our student movements on campus,” Rosado-Torres said.

 

 

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