Grand Canyon University extends invitation to Ben Shapiro to speak on campus

PHOENIX (AP/FOX 10) -- Officials with Grand Canyon University announced that it has extended an invitation to Ben Shapiro to speak on its campus sometime during the spring.

According to the Associated Press, school officials previously told students it wouldn't provide a venue for Shapiro. In a February 1 statement, the school said religious differences and a "high volume of rhetoric" dividing the country were among its chief reasons.

Shapiro has become a fixture on college campuses as a conservative voice rallying against political correctness and "victim culture." He is Jewish and a former Breitbart editor who has been critical of President of Donald Trump. His departure in 2016 led to a campaign of anti-Semitic speech from the alt-right. Progressives have criticized Shapiro for his opposition to gay marriage and demeaning comments about transgender people.

In a statement, GCU officials presented their version of what happened prior to Tuesday night's announcement, claiming they felt the need to explain the events that led to the decision, due to "misleading and false information that has been made public" by the Young America's Foundation's national organization.

GCU officials say YAF's national organization announced publicly on December 11 that Shaprio will be speaking at GCU. That was the same day GCU's YAF chapter submitted the guest speaker request to GCU officials, and the university had yet to start its approval process. The university then set up a meeting with leaders of the YAF chapter to discuss their intent, and did not stop the process due to the approval protocol not being followed.

Eventually, GCU officials say a committee of students, faculty and staff made a recommendation to deny the request. In addition, a number of students expressed concerns that Shapiro will being a "feeling of divisiveness" to the campus, based on some of Shapiro's previous speaking appearances. GCU's YAF chapter was unhappy with the request being denied, and on Monday, GCU agreed to meet with the leadership and the spokesman of YAF's national organization to review the decision.

GCU officials say while the university is an openly avowed conservative institution, the university still welcomes students on its campus who do not share conservative, Christian views.

In the same statement, GCU officials say they are no longer interested in working with YAF's national office, as a result of what officials say is the organization's "continued disparagement of the University, the false and misleading statements it has made, and its expressed strategy to use media pressure to achieve its goals."

"The claims by YAF's national office that GCU changed its approval protocols for Shapiro's appearance are false. Its statement earlier today deliberately omitted the most recent draft of a proposed compromise joint press release that addressed its concerns, presumably because it did not fit its narrative of the events. And, rather than seek a solution in good faith on a joint press release on Tuesday, YAF's national spokesman continued to use social media and media channels throughout the day to disparage GCU even as he was aware the University was willing to bring Mr. Shapiro to campus. When YAF's spokesman indicated that the only acceptable version of a joint release was their original version, GCU decided to discontinue the conversations with the national office. The University considers those tactics unproductive and does not wish to partner with a national organization that operates in this fashion," read a portion the statement.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.