The Students for Light Club featured Hannah Scherlacher, program manager of Campus Reform, who presented a lecture advocating students to stand up against possible threats to the First Amendment and free speech rights as opposed by the Leftists.
“The goal of Campus Reform is to give a voice back to conservatives and libertarians on campus,” said Scherlacher, who also acts as opinion writer for the publication. “Our end goal is to preserve the voice of all students and [create] a haven of intellectual diversity, dialogue, and debate, where students can grow and develop healthy communication skills.”
Her presentation focused on her claim that Leftism is a type of religion with its own beliefs and practices, and that Leftists want to censor speakers, groups, and ideas they disagree with from coming to college campuses.
Scherlacher began her presenting talking about the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group whose purpose is to monitor and expose hate groups. However, Scherlacher argued it is biased and used to defame conservatives. She said she was listed on one of their hate watchlists after appearing on a podcast whose hosts are against gay marriage. She gave other examples of the group listing people who disagree with progressive ideals, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman who suffered female genital mutilation in her home country of Somalia. She was listed for criticizing radical Islam for its practice of FGM.
For Scherlacher, these attempts by the SPLC are a way “the Left,” which she defined as extremist liberals and progressives, attack conservatives’ characters to not listen.
She pointed to specific instances at American universities where students tried to prevent opposing ideologies from being shared. She referred to an incident at UC Berkeley in Feb. 2017 where students destroyed property and pepper sprayed others in protest of guest speaker Milo Yiannopolous. She also cited an incident at Evergreen State College where students demanded all white students and faculty leave campus for the day. Some faculty members, who held the same political beliefs as the students, refused to leave for the day and were “detained” by the students. One photo she showed depicted a professor raising her hand to ask the students who kept her locked in the room for permission to use the bathroom.
Clayton Eidson, a junior from California studying business marketing, thought the presentation was insightful and informative but felt like it was an intended scare tactic and slightly hostile. “I feel like the way she presented the information was posing what is really happening in an extremist point of view. You can have a lot of events happening, but you can make something sound way worse than it is by pulling [specific] events into the light.”
Outside of the HGB room where the event was held, Students for Light put out free books and publications for students to take that were given to them by Young Americans for Liberty. Materials included “I, Pencil” by Lawrence Reed and a pocket Constitution with the Bill of Rights and a foreword by former presidential candidate Ron Paul.
Asked about liberals in a private interview, Scherlacher commented that “they value equality and tolerance and I think that’s a very noble cause. The problem is they have a misguided view on how to get there. Liberals have a big heart. They want to take care of everybody. They think the best way to do that is to have the government take care of them. As a conservative, I have seen time and time again the government trample people’s rights and abuse their power.”
Elizabeth Miller, a freshman from Arkansas double majoring in communications and anthropology, said she enjoyed the lecture but was left wanting more. She said, “I’m not a Republican, and I think either party spends more time developing themselves to be more polarized than they need to be. I think it’s her job to think and feel that way. It didn’t bother me, but I also find it more comical than anything else. One of my favorites is to hear these super conservative people use the term ‘liberal brainwashing.’ It just makes me laugh.”
Miller described Scherlacher as “polarized,” but said, “I get it - she was talking about rights to free speech being lost among academic institutions. If we lose our free speech in institutions of learning, then what does that mean for rising generations? I think personal liberties are something to be pretty polarized about. They are what let us form ideas and worship freely.”
One of Scherlacher’s motivations for visiting BYUH was she had heard Hawaii doesn’t get visited by many conservative speakers. She said, “I think wherever there is a void for conservative speakers, it’s worth traveling a distance to make it. It is important to help conservatives learn how to defend their principles. I wanted to come here, meet the students, and hopefully encourage and empower them to speak up for religious freedom and the First Amendment rights on campus, and when they graduate and join the workforce.”
When ideas are shared and dissension results from the conflict of ideas, Scherlacher advised it is better to “defend your principles, not people. It’s a full-time job to stay updated on our current issues, let alone, world issues. That’s why it’s so important to be able to know your principles and your values. Those principles and values will transcend any argument you have. You don’t have to know everything, just your principles.” By basing her political beliefs on principles, Scherlacher said she’s able to avoid having to defend specific things Republican politicians say.
Scherlacher compared BYUH to her alma mater Liberty University, the largest private Christian college in America. Scherlacher said, “I see many similarities between students here and students I went to school with at Liberty University. Challenge your ideas and do not get caught up on information bias. Don’t only reaffirm your beliefs by talking to people you only agree with. Get out there, talk to people, and change hearts and minds. Who knows? You might have your own heart and mind changed in the process.”
Scherlacher said that having one-on-one conversations can go so much farther than screaming out your ideas to people who already believe what you believe. She said, “I’m not going to change a single heart or mind unless I reach people on an individual level. We need to see more people willing to have a conversation, one on one, no matter how small. Each conversation matters. You never know if you have a conversation with one person, and they tell five other people, they talk to 10 other people, and before you know it, you have more unity.”