Elisha Krauss, conservative speaker and Daily Wire contributor, spoke about the importance of free speech on college campuses on Wednesday night.
The event where she spoke, sponsored by the Ole Miss chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), sparked a controversy last week, as the request to use the initial venue for her speech — The Overby Center auditorium — was rescinded just days before the lecture. Following an interaction between Krauss and the university via the school’s official Twitter account, the lecture was rescheduled in the student union. Krauss addressed the controversy in her speech.
“You never know what will happen on university campuses, and we are glad we could still have an event like this,” Krauss said. “It’s comforting to see that Ole Miss is still a place where free speech is welcome.”
Because of the increased attention surrounding the event and subsequent anticipation of protestors, several UPD officers were present. However, there were no protests. Governor-elect Tate Reeves, who was rumored to attend the event, also did not appear on Wednesday night.
Krauss linked the state of free speech on college campuses to recent criticism faced by professional comedians for offensive jokes. She said that while she feels comedy is under attack for its inclination to be offensive, many comedians are standing up for their freedom of speech.
“This is what comedy is supposed to be—unapologetic, hysterical and sometimes awkward,” Krauss said. “Comedy should never apologize for this, and it certainly should never stop. I sincerely hope that — much like on college campuses today — we’re seeing more people stand up for their rights and their free speech. These comedians are just the first wave of professionals from all sides that won’t apologize.”
She quoted Dave Chapelle’s acceptance speech for the Mark Twain Award for American Humor, in which Chappelle advocated for the protection of the First Amendment and downplayed attacks on comedians.
“I don’t get mad at (racist comedians),” Chappelle said. “I don’t hate them. It’s not that serious. The First Amendment is there for a reason. The Second Amendment is just in case the first one doesn’t work out,” prompting applause from the audience that filled Auditorium 124 in the student union to capacity.
Krauss also attacked what she called “victim culture.”
“If you wake up every single day thinking that you are a victim, running into somebody that offended you, what are you going to accomplish in life?” she said. “Not to sound like a graduation speech here, but do you really want to go through life thinking that everything is turning against you? You are not a victim. I am not a victim. Whatever this speech is, you can strongly disagree with it. But (I’m) still free to speak. We all are. And thank God for that.”
Krauss defended the rights of churches and religious schools to refuse hiring people for being gay and also defended the rights of people to protest those decisions.
“A religious school or institution should definitely be able to say, ‘We’re not going to hire that woman because she won’t sign an honor code and doesn’t adhere to our beliefs,’” she said. “We’ve seen churches that say, ‘We’ll not hire that person because they’re living a homosexual lifestyle, and that does not adhere to the code that we are teaching our students.’ Religious schools should also be protected, and the people who call them bigots should be able to call them bigots, even if they disagree.”
Jack Dellinger, a sophomore Public Policy Leadership major who asked Krauss a question during the question-and-answer time after her speech, said that Krauss and other conservatives need to focus less on free speech and more on promoting conservative ideals.
“It’s not so much a stark disagreement,” he said. “I think it’s important to have platforms for different political views and on campus and other places, but I think that conservatives need to be more forceful in their assertion of the truth and certain ideas like being for pro-life and traditional marriage, as well as the family’s place in the economy.”