By Mark Ladao | Staff Writer
Hannah Scherlacher, the program manager for the Campus Reform, the news arm of the the conservative non-profit Leadership Institute, gave a speech at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Campus Center on Friday afternoon.
Her speech, which started around 1 p.m., lasted about half an hour. Hundreds of students walked by, and up to around 30 or so people were stopped and listening at any one time.
Scherlacher spoke mostly about biases against conservative and libertarian views on college campuses around the nation, which she said can be seen on a student, instructor and systematic level, describing “bully tactics” used against conservatives that include character assassination, intimidation, academic penalties and fear mongering.
Scherlacher condemned several liberal ideas on campus. These include punishing those who fail to use or address pronoun preferences in classroom settings, the idea that microaggressions can be lethal and “the concerted effort to feminize men.”
“If men are robbed of their identity as protectors and providers in society, then they’re left out on the cold, wondering, ‘Who am I? What role do I have in society?’” she said.
Scherlacher was concerned about socialism gaining popularity among students in the United States.
“I encourage students who support socialism and communism to take field trip … to Cuba or Venezuela and see the true effects of socialism,” she said.
She also compared the customer service of the DMV or post office, which are government-run, to private businesses like Amazon and Google, to warn listeners that a socialist America would be poorly run.
She implicitly defended other conservative ideas but said the Leadership Institute’s goals were non-partisan and were not meant to endorse any candidate or legislative measure.
Scherlacher is a proponent of President Donald Trump but said she disagreed with much of what he has done or said, defending a conservative philosophy rather than any one individual.
“Our end goal is not to see conservatives dominate the political arena on college campuses,” she said. “Our goal is to create an environment where all voices are protected.”
Much of Scherlacher’s speech was not specific to Hawaiʻi , but she pointed out a 2017 blog post by Piper Harron, an associate professor in Mathematics at UH Mānoa, in which Harron asked for cis white men in higher education to resign their power and to have universities stop hiring cis white men until a balance in people of different colors and genders is met.
Nick Ochs, a journalism student at UH Mānoa and head of the Proud Boys chapter in Oʻahu and Young Americans for Freedom on campus, contacted the Leadership Institute, which brought Scherlacher to Hawaiʻi. Scherlacher also spoke at Brigham Young University and Hawaiʻi Pacific University.
“I started YAF at UH Mānoa with the specific intention of bringing conservative speakers, and [Scherlacher’s] the first one I’ve secured,” he said. “There are more coming.”
Ochs’ goals start where Scherlacher’s and the Leadership Institute’s ends.
“My entire intention with this is to form a network of young conservatives in the state of Hawaiʻi and flip it red [conservative],” he said.
Both Scherlacher and Ochs noted the troubles of advertising leading up to the speech. Ochs said that he had been putting up hundreds of flyers around campus for weeks, but most were quickly removed.
“I’d say the average life of my flyer is about 3 hours, but it depends where it is,” he said. “If they don’t see it in a forgotten corner of the school, it’d still be up. But if it’s on a bulletin board or anywhere actually visible, it gets torn down, usually within minutes.”
Roughly 10 people in Scherlacher’s audience appeared to support her message, occasionally clapping their hands, wearing the black polos indicative of the Proud Boys or sporting red “Make America Great Again” hats used in Trump’s 2016 campaign; most filtered through quietly, only staying a few minutes. But Ochs considered the speech a success.
“I thought it was fantastic,” he said.
Campus security was present throughout the speech, but Sarah Rice, the community programs manager for the Department of Public Safety at UH Mānoa, said that security is present “if there’s any speech deemed controversial.”
Rice also said some of those in the department just came to watch because they were curious.