Activists rallied outside Stanford’s Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Feb. 17 to protest former Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to a sold-out crowd.
Two hours before the event, protesters gathered a block away from the auditorium to make signs reading “No one is illegal,” “Buzz off Bigots,” “Save our immigrant parents” and “Hatred isn’t very Christian of you, Mike.”
Stanford College Republicans spokesman and sophomore Walker Stewart said Pence was invited to speak to spread the message of conservatism that is often missing from the classroom.
“It’s just bringing conservative thoughts to campus and giving students of all political stripes the ability to hear his point of view,” Stewart said. “We’re not all going to agree on every little issue, so it’s important to try to engage with people who see the world a little bit differently than you do.”
Stanford junior Jessica Femenias said Stanford’s hosting of Pence is problematic in many ways.
“(It) is a tacit legitimization of his opinions and ideologies that are so harmful for so much of the student body,” Femenias said.
And protest organizer and Stanford freshman Ritwik Tati criticized the motives of the student organization hosting Pence, the Stanford College Republicans.
“(The SCR) knows nothing more than to spread hate to individuals and groups under the guise of political freedom,” Tati said. “(Mike Pence speaking) on campus is just an extension of that hate.”
Stanford sophomore Alexa Gutierrez said Pence has vocally opposed aspects of her identity throughout his political career.
“I don’t think it’s what Stanford stands for, and I don’t think Stanford should allow it,” Gutierrez said. “I’m an immigrant; I’m a Latina; I’m gay — what hasn’t he said?”
Stanford freshman Isabella Pistaferri said her opposition to Pence speaking stems from the comments he’s made towards the LGBTQ+ community and the immigration policy he supported.
“As a country that was founded on values of supposed equality, and a country that’s obviously trying to progressively turn better every year, I feel like he was just a huge setback,” Pistaferri said. “I don’t think that he’s a good representation of values that I would want to put forward. And the fact that he is a representation of values that some people at this school would want to put forward is kind of embarrassing.”
Throughout the event, protesters shouted, “Shame on you,” and “Hate should not be taught here,” while others spoke out to the crowd condemning Stanford for hosting the former Vice President.
“(Stanford is an) institution that is supposed to be better than the world, that is supposed to be standing for equanimity, the rights of all people and the rights for science and that is supposed to contribute to society in a meaningful way,” one protester, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “The fact that we have someone that stands for such hate coming to speak at this school is a bad look for Stanford.”
The SCR was initially denied funding for the Pence event from the Associated Students of Stanford University, but after filing a case to the ASSU Constitutional Council, the SCR’s motion was approved and they were granted funding for the event.
Stewart said that although there were protesters at the event, they didn’t distract those who wanted to listen to what Pence had to say.
“The protests didn’t really disrupt the event,” Stewart said. “We’d call it a smashing success. The auditorium was packed to the brim and many people had a great experience.”