SU Treasury approves over 11 thousand dollars for conservative commentator Amala Ekpunobi to speak on campus
Student Union Treasury approved an $11,208.95 budget to fund Amala Ekpunobi, a conservative commentator, to speak at a College Republicans (CR) event titled “Why I Left the Left,” Nov. 15.
The College Republicans brought forth their funding proposal to Treasury, and a 30-minute debate ensued that focused on the role of treasurers in SU and how they should weigh thought diversity alongside the potential, as some treasurers saw it, for Ekpunobi’s speaking engagement to harm people from marginalized communities.
Ekpunobi is a podcaster and influencer at PragerU, an American entertainment company that promotes conservative perspectives and provides a “free alternative to the dominant left-wing ideology in culture, media, and education,” according to its website. Ekpunobi, a former leftist who underwent an ideological transformation, gained viral fame posting conservative TikTok videos, and she now works for PragerU.
Of the 20 treasurers eligible to vote to fund the event, 14 were in attendance at the meeting and voted on this specific appeal. The main motion passed 8-3, with three people abstaining.
Members of the College Republicans in attendance said they believed that the event will be a success because a Black female conservative has never spoken on the University campus before, and Ekpunobi’s past events on college campuses have been well-attended.
College Republicans members present at the meeting expressed hope that the event will bring political diversity to campus in a respectful manner.
“One of the things College Republicans pride ourselves in is our ability to foster respect and discourse,” CR Treasurer Abby McGowan, currently a sophomore, said. “If you don’t agree with something that she says, we hope that you come and pick up the mic. We want to hear from you. That is the point of bringing a speaker like this to campus — to ensure that there is discourse.”
Junior Brett Davis, a SU Treasurer, said that the event will be important for providing new viewpoints, despite potential disagreement it may cause.
“Nobody like this has ever come to campus before,” Davis said. “If you’re a person who might be offended by this or really against this, nobody’s forcing you to go. I think, in certain ways, it would bring a perspective that hasn’t been seen.”
President of College Republicans, Nathaniel Hope, a junior, said that Ekpunobi would not engage in unapproved lobbying or directly endorse any political party during her visit.
“University services, resources, or funds may not be used in any way that could appear to suggest University endorsement [of] or support for a political candidate, political party, or political action committee,” Section IV of the University’s Guidance on Political, Campaign, and Lobbying Activity states.
Treasurers who voted against bringing Ekpunobi to campus pointed to her controversial video content, including her statements that “women are not natural leaders” and that women are “more emotional” and less “logic-minded” than men, as well as her references to transgender women as “biological men.”
“I understand the idea of dialogue, but I also think that I am very vehemently opposed to using my money, my friends’ money, and anybody’s money on this campus to pay somebody who, in open forums, speaks that way about various people with those identities,” Treasurer, and current sophomore, Saish Satyal said.
SU Treasurer Branden Rothenberg, a junior, referred to Ekpunobi as a “firecracker” in the conservative movement.
“I think that her offensiveness doesn’t meet my criteria for hate speech, which is where I would draw the line,” Rothenberg said.
Satyal said that “the bar is in hell” in regards to hate speech being the grounds for whether Ekpunobi should come, and that it would be “straight disrespectful” to have Ekpunobi speak on campus.
“If we are to fund an event to bring a speaker onto campus who bases a lot of her career and rhetoric on attacking people’s personhood and identity, I think that’s a little bit more than offense, and I think that that is going to create a moment on campus in which students of marginalized identities don’t feel supported,” Satyal said.
Treasurer Ezra Mishkel, a junior, believed the event would be “thought-provoking,” as it would encourage students to participate in debate.
“We can’t protect everybody’s emotions at this school,” Mishkel said. “I think that you can also put out a trigger warning because some people might get their feelings hurt.”
Treasurer Justin Kouch, a junior, stated that treasurers have a responsibility to “equitably fund” all campus groups.
“I may not agree with everything that she says, but it’s not my job to care what she talks about,” Kouch said. “My job is to look at campus as a whole and see this is something that a decent amount of campus would go to, so why are we letting our emotions decide how we’re funding this?”
Treasurer Sadie Karp, a sophomore, described having a “hard time” separating her roles as treasurer being both representative of student groups while maintaining the interests of constituents and students.
“This campus does need diversity of thought, and that’s something that is one-hundred percent lacking,” Karp said. “But is the way to bring [thought diversity] to campus through this speaker?”
Treasurer Aidan Stutts, a current junior, believes there would be an audience on campus that would benefit from hearing Ekpunobi speak.
“I think that if this were a far-left speaker, we wouldn’t be having a conversation,” Stutts said.
The morning after SU treasurers voted to fund the event, the WashU College Democrats and the Association of Black Students (ABS) released an Instagram post heavily criticizing the decision and Ekpunobi.
“Ekpunobi has disparaged transgender and non-binary people, compared ‘White Lives Matter’ with ‘Black Lives Matter,’ warned parents to ‘watch out for their kids’ from transgender Assistant Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, stood against survivors coming forward with allegations of sexual violence, and denied the existence of systemic racism and sexism,” the post stated.
College Democrats encouraged students interested in organizing against the event to reach out through direct messages.
“[The College Republicans] invite everyone on campus to attend [the event],” Hope said in response to the post.
Amala Ekpunobi is currently scheduled to speak on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. in Simon 1.