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SDS Supports Speaker’s Right to Free Speech, Notes Conservative Union Contradictions

Press Release Dated 11/29/07

In a November 28 article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, UWM student AJ Piwarun alleged that the attempted cancellation of a Conservative Union event entitled “Why I Left Jihad” was rooted in political bias. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at UWM vehemently disagrees with Mr. Walid Shoebat’s Islamophobic message, but our organization supports his right to speak at UWM; however, we must point out the contradiction embodied in AJ Piwarun. Allocating funds to SDS as a student Senator, Mr. Piwarun among others violated viewpoint neutrality as outlined by the United States Supreme Court case Southworth v. Board of Regents of the UW System. While The Conservative Union received funds for Mr. Shoebat, Piwarun, the group’s president, knowingly stood by as fellow student Senator Tobin Huibregtse lied, stating that SDS’ funds should be cut because “the most we ever gave for a speaker was 1000 dollars.” The Senate Appropriations Committee Minutes show that the Conservative Union received $5,000 for one speaker and the College Republicans, of which Piwarun is a member, received $3,000 for a speaker as well.

Furthermore, Piwarun violated SDS’ rights as we organized a speech by Dr. Peter Phillips whose event focused on Self Censorship in the Media. Ironically, Piwarun attempted to censor a speaker bringing attention to censorship and now finds himself in a position where he usually places others. Piwarun voted with the majority to cut SDS’ funding from $6,792 to $3,000. Of the 62 student organizations, five groups were pulled out for reconsideration based on their funding levels. SDS was singled out by Piwarun and other student Senators for political reasons, as exhibited by the clearly apolitical nature of the other four groups under review: Club Hockey ($22,900), Lady Panther’s Soccer ($19,445),Wrestling Club ($19,015). In addition, thirteen student organizations were funded $6,500+ with unanimous consent without review.

Mr. Piwarun has also argued that he was censored when not called upon in a Q&A session at an SDS sponsored speech by Winona LaDuke -- a speech he attempted to censor by cutting SDS’ allocation, threatening SDS’ ability to hold the event. The circumstances surrounding Mr. Walid Shoebat’s speech have been used to characterize the sponsors as victims. SDS will defend freedom of speech for all, but highlight the fact that the supposed victims in this case are typically perpetrators.