This Christian college that attributes its soaring enrollment to free speech has a checkered past

The president of a Christian university blamed the school’s surge in enrollment on its commitment to free speech, but the school was initially criticized by conservative critic Ben Shapiro a few years ago. I was not allowed to speak on campus.

Founded in 1949 in Phoenix, Arizona, Grand Canyon University has seen enrollment triple over the past decade, surpassing 25,000 by 2022. The university’s president told Fox News that the university is focused on teaching rather than indoctrinating its growing student body.

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“Not everyone who comes here has the same biblical beliefs that we teach here, but they are free to come here, and the classrooms are open,” said Brian Mueller, president of GCU. You are free to share your worldview both inside and outside the country.” “We take respect for free speech very seriously.”

Mueller said the GCU is committed to free speech for students of all religious beliefs, despite its emphasis on Christianity. (Fox News Digital)

But the school faced backlash in 2019 when it initially banned Shapiro from speaking on campus. To avoid conflict due to student concerns, However, the Daily Wire co-founder ended up speaking at that year’s GCU.

The National Division of the Young America Foundation announced that Shapiro would speak on the GCU campus, even though the university had not approved the local chapter’s formal request. According to the GCU press release.

The GCU has since rejected the request, saying in a press release that the school aims to “bring unity to communities located within a deeply divided country.” The university also said part of the reason for the denial was that the YAF’s premature announcement violated approval procedures.

“By yielding to an unseen mob and ignoring Shapiro’s popularity among students, Grand Canyon University has only played itself, and any negative reaction this elicits is justified,” YAF said. spokesman Spencer Brown said at the time. He also wrote that GCU administrators said they had the following concerns: Angry DACA students Because of Mr. Shapiro’s harsh views on immigration.

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The university itself eventually invited Mr. Shapiro, who continues to fight the YAF, to speak, but conservative commentators initially declined. But Shapiro eventually agreed to speak on campus.

“I have worked with YAF and YAF students for years,” Shapiro tweeted. “I’m not going to bypass her YAF students who are hardworking and dedicated at GCU. If YAF takes me to her GCU, I’ll go to GCU.”

Finally Shapiro said speak in college later that spring.

After learning about the incident, Fox News reached out to the GCU for further clarification. A GCU spokesperson told Fox News that the school invites speakers “from a variety of political perspectives,” including many conservative speakers.

“Mr. Shapiro’s conservative view aligns with more than 90 percent of our values ​​as a university,” a spokesperson told Fox News. “Initially, there were some missteps in internal communication and the approval process, but they were resolved and I am happy that Mr. Shapiro was able to visit and talk to the students. is maintained.”

Meanwhile, Mueller told Fox News in a recent interview that he is committed to promoting the First Amendment at his university. The prospect is attractive to his parents, he said, as the fight over free speech on college campuses continues to rage across the country.

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Parents don’t want their kids to go to college “to be taught an ideology that probably wasn’t taught at home,” Mueller said.

The student body is mostly made up of conservative Christians, but Mueller said expectations are high from the student body. political and religious diversity grow up. Christian colleges have expanded over the past decade, despite declining college enrollments across the country.

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“We are not a church,” Mueller told Fox News. “We are a university.”

“I think it’s a very healthy environment that leads to a very strong community that is very attractive to people across the country,” Muller said.

YAF spokesman Michael McGonigle reacted to Mueller’s recent comments, given the GCU’s previous controversy over Shapiro.

“YAF has welcomed some prominent conservatives to GCU, including Elisha Krause and Ben Shapiro, but the university has not always fully supported our efforts,” he said. “Hopefully the school learns from its past mistakes, stays firm in the fall, and works to bring more speakers to campus.”

Mr. Shapiro declined to comment on Mr. Mueller’s recent remarks.

To read the full interview with Mr. Mueller, click here.

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