Upcoming conservative speaker draws criticism from black students

Larry Elder, a prominent conservative speaker, is set to visit Chapman’s campus Feb. 12, a timing that some Chapman students think is “disrespectful” due to Black History Month. Photo by Gabriella Anderson

Larry Elder, a prominent conservative lawyer, professor and talk show host, is set to speak at a Feb. 12 event on socialism and Donald Trump’s presidency, hosted by the Chapman Republicans.

Thomas Roche, the club’s president, told The Panther that Elder’s presence will assist in the “conservative voice being heard” on Chapman’s campus.

“Our club has a variety of brands of conservatism, but we think that Mr. Elder really conveys where we’re at on the issues,” Roche said.
Elder’s visit has stirred controversy among some students.

Troy Allen, president of Chapman’s Black Student Union, told The Panther that she finds the choice to bring Elder, who is black, to campus during Black History Month “disrespectful,” adding that unlike political clubs on campus, BSU was not invited to the event, which Roche confirmed.

“I have to give credit where it’s due, and I don’t want to accuse Chapman Republicans of bringing him here with malcontent, but that in itself is a metaphor for a greater mentality,” Allen said. “There are so few black students here at Chapman; it’s hard to conceptualize what your black peers are going through if you don’t ask them.”

Stephen Ragsdale, the vice president of Chapman Republicans, said that although the club has invited other political groups on campus to the event, the aim of the event “isn’t really to create a bridge.”

“If that happens, then great,” Ragsdale said. “It’s more just to get an experienced person to do a good job of articulating our values.”

Roche, when asked about the timing of the event, said its scheduling during Black History Month was coincidental, but that it’s a “great time” for Elder to be on campus.

“Mr. Elder is a very successful person,” Roche said. “What a great time for him to come to Chapman, he should be welcomed here any day of the week, any month of the year.”

But to Allen, Elder’s invitation from Chapman Republicans is “ironic.”

“How can you say what’s good for the black community when you’re not black?” she said.

In 2001, ABC News quoted Elder, an often controversial figure, as saying that the consequences of racism should be treated as a “personal responsibility.” After rejoining the radio team at KABC Orange County in 2011, Elder became known as a commentator on both national and local politics, establishing himself as a critic of then-President Barack Obama and other prominent Democrats.

Elder was fired from KABC in 2014 for unspecified reasons and said in a 2016 interview with YouTube channel The Rubin Report that he believes people assume racism “remains a major problem in America.”

Some members of other political clubs on campus are planning to attend the event, with three tickets allotted to the Chapman Democrats.

Alexis Sutterman, president of Chapman Democrats, told The Panther that she is “happy and grateful” that Elder is coming to campus, but hopes the event will foster political discussion.

“I hope they leave a lot of time for a Q&A,” Sutterman said. “It would frustrate me if it is going to be a room of conservatives. I would like it to be a forum of discussion, not an echochamber.”

The event has sold 55 tickets online and is sold out, according to the Chapman Republicans Facebook page. Its audience will consist of GOP club members, other students and unspecified VIP guests, Roche said.

Elder will speak Argyros Forum 209B on Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. Follow The Panther as we continue to report on the event.