Former vice president Mike Pence will speak at the University April 12 at an event hosted by the University’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom. The event will take place in Old Cabell Hall and is a part of Young America’s Foundation’s Ken and Janice Shengold Advancing Freedom lecture series.
Young Americans for Freedom is the student chapter of the national conservative organization Young America’s Foundation. In November, YAF sparked controversy for hosting a discussion panel titled “In Defense of Mr. Jefferson” that aimed to promote and protect the legacy of the University’s founder. Students criticized the event for overlooking Jefferson’s history of enslavement and racism by hanging signs around Grounds, defacing a promotion for the event on Beta Bridge and flooding the organization’s Instagram with comments.
The organization has previously drawn attention for posting selectively-edited videos of a Student Council meeting, which led to the harassment of several representatives of color. The group also claimed that signs placed in the amphitheater as a part of its 9/11 Never Forget Project were vandalized, but the University Police Department later investigated the incident and reported that natural elements took down the signage.
A Young America’s Foundation spokesperson wrote in a press release that Pence will use the forum to discuss a reinvigoration of “freedom, free markets and traditional values.”
“The political climate at the University of Virginia has grown to become nearly inhospitable towards conservatives,” said Nick Cabrera, chairman of YAF at U.Va. and third-year College student. “We are targeted for discussing our beliefs in the classroom, yet liberals are praised for their progressive and divisive tactics under the guise of ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion.’ Bringing the 48th vice president, Mike Pence, will allow for a reinvigorated sense of intellectual diversity across Jefferson's campus.”
University spokesperson Brian Coy said in an email statement to The Cavalier Daily that the event is not sponsored by the University.
“[The event] is not a University-sponsored event, but it fits well within the University’s academic mission to offer our community the opportunity to hear from, and engage with, leaders and experts from a wide variety of fields and perspectives,” Coy said. “As always, we encourage members of our community who wish to express a point of view about this event to do so civilly and with respect for their fellow ‘Hoos.”
When Pence spoke at Stanford University Feb. 18 at an event hosted by the Stanford College Republicans, over 80 protestors gathered outside of the venue, chanting “hate should not be taught here,” “a space for Pence is a space without me” and “shame on you” to audience members who entered the auditorium. A group of protesters also entered the auditorium and heckled Pence directly before being asked to leave, per the The Stanford Daily.
Entrance to the event — which will begin at 7:00 p.m. on April 12 — will be free and open to the public. Additional ticketing information will be released in the coming weeks.