The University of Michigan’s Power Center was filled to capacity for the live taping of “Louder With Crowder: Halloween Spooktacular” with commentator Steven Crowder, a YouTube personality known for his weekly podcasts and conservative, unfiltered approach to social issues on Thursday night.
The event was hosted by Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative student group on campus focused on issues such as free enterprise, individual freedom, limited government, traditional values and a strong national defense. LSA junior Zachary Fritz, a YAF member, discussed the group’s motivations behind bringing an ostensibly controversial speaker to campus.
“Young Americans for Freedom has always been about just that — freedom,” Fritz said. “We’re all about bringing a different viewpoint to campus that isn’t often discussed, and Crowder represents an opportunity for us to show that.”
Although there were no counterprotesters apparent at the event, the University has had a recent history of protests against conservative pundits and speakers. Last year, students held walkouts and protests against social scientist Charles Murray for his debunked theory correllating race and IQ. Students staged similar actions during past YAF events featuring speakers like Milo Yiannopolous and Ben Shapiro. In a different vein, white supremacist Richard Spencer was forced to halt his independent speaking tour before he arranged an event after students clashde with administrators on the matter.
Dressed as a Supreme Court justice, Crowder took the stage as the audience chanted, “We want Crowder.” Crowder immediately then dove into a discussion of current events and topics ranging from celebrity Caitlyn Jenner’s transgender identity to the recent bomb threats targeted at liberal political figures. Crowder quickly posited he did not approve of the recent death threats.
Crowder was then joined onstage by comedian Owen Benjamin. The two performed a piano skit and song debating whether gender is a social or biological identity.
Afterward, Crowder discussed what it means to be a conservative college student. As a compilation of news footage featuring the targeting of conservative students on college campuses was projected, Crowder argued for the importance for conservative students to remain steadfast in their beliefs, despite his claim of generally liberal overtones on college campuses.
“Statistically, the one thing no one talks about is that no one is othered on college campuses more than conservatives,” Crowder said. “A majority of college students said they feel there’s a climate on college campuses that’s completely hostile towards them.”
Crowder’s comments on the silencing of conservative voices on campus come months after the non-profit Speech First’s motion to halt the University’s Bias Response Team was denied by a District Court Judge. The motion claimed BRT violated the free speech rights for students on campus during their investigations into bias incidents on campus.
Crowder went on to discuss the importance of recognizing commonalities among conservative students. He claimed conservative students must understand their views also matter.
“We do this show so that you don’t have to be afraid,” Crowder said. “It’s okay to be who you are. What if you’re conservative? What if you’re a right-leaning person outnumbered twelve to one not by students but by your professors.”
Fans of Crowder from around the state and students alike convened to engage in Crowder’s humorous take on conservative political discourse. Engineering junior Lincoln Merrill, a member of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, discussed his motivations behind attending the event.
“I go to all of the events that have speakers like this on the campus,” Merrill said. “Whenever we try to speak on the Diag, we get a lot of hate directed towards us, so it’s nice to come here and just be able to listen to someone without a lot of discourse, and hopefully further my perspective on some of the issues with what Crowder has to say.”
Crowder closed with a question-and-answer session, where members of the public were able to engage with Crowder over his political beliefs and conservative identity. He concluded his discussion by asserting conservative identities do exist on college campuses.
“You don’t have to be afraid,” Crowder said. “You don’t have to be afraid to speak up. There are other people out there like you.”
Correction appended: A portion of this article linking YAF to Richard Spencer misrepresented the student group's affiliations.