Conservative groups sue University for discrimination in Shapiro event

The lawsuit claims the University’s decision to host conservative speaker Ben Shapiro in St. Paul is proof of bias.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro speaks in the Northstar Ballroom of the St. Paul Student Center on Monday, Feb. 26. The speech drew a crowd of dozens of protestors in opposition to Shapiro's presence on campus.

Jack Rodgers

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro speaks in the Northstar Ballroom of the St. Paul Student Center on Monday, Feb. 26. The speech drew a crowd of dozens of protestors in opposition to Shapiro’s presence on campus.

Madeline Deninger

The conservative student group that sponsored Ben Shapiro’s February visit to campus is suing the University of Minnesota, alleging discrimination and a violation of First Amendment obligations. 

Following the University’s decision to host Shapiro’s lecture on the St. Paul campus, the Young America’s Foundation cited the incident as an example of bias on the school’s part in a lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday. The lawsuitlists YAF, Students for a Conservative Voice and Shapiro as plaintiffs. 

The lawsuit alleges the University held the event, hosted by SFC, Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow and Minnesota Students for Liberty, in the North Star Ballroom on the St. Paul campus instead of a larger venue on the Minneapolis campus due to the threat of a protest despite the student group’s requests.

“As a result of the forced relocation to the [North Star] Ballroom, many students were prevented from attending and participating in the speaking event, and Shapiro was forced to speak to less than half the number of students that desired to attend,” the lawsuit reads. 

University Relations Vice President Matt Kramer denied the decision to host Shapiro in St. Paul was evidence of any bias by the school at a press conference leading up to the event. Kramer said the University has welcomed and will continue to welcome conservative speakers on campus. 

The University is aware of the complaint and plans to review it carefully to determine its next steps, said University spokesperson Chuck Tombarge.