Conservative commentator stirs up life at Washburn

Knowles and College Republicans share the topic change Monday, March 28. Some Washburn community members felt outraged by this decision.

The conservative political commentator, Michael Knowles, is scheduled to speak on campus on Thursday, March 31 at 7 p.m. in Washburn A/B in the Memorial Union. Initially, Knowles was going to talk about freedom of speech, but changed his topic days before his appearance to “ending this transgenderism madness once and for all.”

“We, as an organization, feel as though our viewpoints haven’t really been presented on campus. We were hoping to present our perspective and he aligns with some of the same similar views that we hold,” said Claudia Fury, a sophomore political science major and chairman of College Republicans.

On Monday, March 28, Knowles announced on social media that the discussion would focus on “how to end this transgenderism madness once and for all.” This change stirred up many negative reactions from Washburn students, faculty and alumni. Mallory Hamilton, a junior studying criminal justice, was taken aback by the post.

“I was appalled. I was really confused about how this was happening and where it came from,” Hamilton said. “The first thing I did was I posted on my Instagram story and I told people if you feel unsafe Thursday for any reason, and you want to walk to class or walk to your car, ride, I’m available; I was immediately worried about people feeling safe, specifically LGBTQ plus members and trans people.”

Hamilton messaged two of her friends and classmates, Sierra Jeter, a junior majoring in political science and Spanish, and Emma Morrissey, a senior majoring in forensic investigation, to take action. The three created a group chat to bring together the community in support of trans rights. Hamilton, Jeter and Morrissey used the group chat to collaborate with over a hundred students and create a solidarity gathering in response to Knowles’ event. The gathering isn’t intended to be a protest against Knowles, but rather a show of love and support to the trans community, and LGBTQ+ community as a whole.

“It started as what can we do to make sure that our students feel safe,” Hamilton said. “This is supposed to be a day for trans people just being taken away. We need to celebrate these students and give them a safe, happy place to be during a day that is supposed to be for them.”

The solidarity gathering will take place at 4:30 p.m. on the east Union Lawn, prior to Knowles’ appearance.

“Something that the group has been very adamant about making clear is that we don’t not want conservative speakers on campus,” Hamilton said. “We want whoever and whatever ideological group to have speakers come.”

Despite the solidarity gathering being a response to Knowles’ appearance, Fury said that she is happy that the gathering is taking place.

“I’m glad that both of our organizations can stand on campus and promote both of our ideas and do it in a peaceful manner. I’m just hoping that the event goes as planned and no disruptive behavior happens during the event,” Fury said. “I’m really glad that we’re both able to voice our opinions and have a presence on campus.”

Security has been a significant concern for both groups, so the Washburn Police will be patrolling both events in order to keep students, faculty and staff safe. Fury said that four Washburn police officers will be at Knowles’ event and Hamilton said that police presence is a big aspect of their gathering to keep everyone safe, as well as having Chris Enos, Washburn University’s chief of police, one phone call away.

Fury, on behalf of Washburn College Republicans, said that she hopes that Knowles will not intentionally cause harm to anyone and they just want to be able to provide an informative, political event. On the other side, Hamilton and Jeter want to provide a safe and celebratory space that supports everyone, no matter their identity.

Over 700 people have reserved tickets for Knowles’ appearance, but only 300 will be allowed into the room based on a first come, first serve basis. Over 150 people are expected to attend the solidarity gathering prior.

Edited by: Glorianna Noland, Leah Jamison