On Tuesday, Nov. 9, Drew University’s College Republicans and Catholic Campus Ministry clubs invited pro-life advocate Trent Horn as a guest speaker on Drew’s campus. Horn’s speech was met with significant backlash from the student body.
Horn is a self-proclaimed “Catholic apologist” with a master’s degree in theology, philosophy and bioethics. He has spoken at several universities across the country with the goal of sharing his beliefs and engaging in productive conversations with those in attendance who may disagree. Horn said he hopes his speeches will help teach others how to engage with those who have unpopular opinions on controversial topics.
The event took place in Crawford Hall in the Ehinger Center (EC). In response to worries that were expressed by students at a student government meeting the week prior, Drew University’s College of Liberal Arts (CLA) Student Government set up an “empowerment and decompression” space right outside the hall that community members were free to attend.
Various clubs also tabled outside of the venue as part of the empowerment space, including the Feminist Intersection club, WoCo and the BIPOC Peer Mentoring Program. WMNJ, Drew’s radio station, also blasted music outside of the EC as part of the event.
CLA Student Government Vice President Nate Roark (‘24) said “The EC is a hub of student life here at Drew and we wanted to create a focal point for students to know where to go and for several things to be happening because it is such a large venue with several spaces inside.”
Inside of the venue, the atmosphere was tense as some attendees groaned at Horn’s arguments, while others applauded.
Horn’s speech was in response to three different types of arguments that he identified with “common arguments used to justify legal abortion […] those that assume the unborn are not human beings, those that argue the unborn are not human beings, those that admit the unborn are human beings.”
Some attendees expressed their frustration with Horn’s response to the arguments he cited during the Q&A session after his speech.
Elena Kaplan (‘25) said, “He treated the idea of not victim blaming as if it were a hot take and I find that so disrespectful. It is not a hot take. It is just common sense.”
At last week’s Student Government meeting, several students voiced their concerns about having Trent Horn on campus, stating that they would not feel safe with somebody who has openly made discriminatory remarks on their social media accounts. Other students stated that having speakers like Trent Horn on campus would enable dialogue about highly debated issues such as abortion.
President of the Drew College Republicans and Co-President for the Catholic Campus Ministry club Nicholas Ramirez (‘22) said, “No matter where you stand on the issue of abortion, this is an extremely important time to talk about this subject. Legal battles are being fought about abortion today in states like Texas and Mississippi and have worked their way up to the Supreme Court. This is the time to talk about it.”
Although the Planned Parenthood Generation Action chapter at Drew did not table at the actual empowerment and decompression spaces, they did set up an educational booth in the main lounge of Baldwin Hall.
Although the CLA Student Government put together the empowerment and decompression space with the intention of giving community members a space in which to feel comfortable in the face of Horn’s speech, which some students felt was a distressing event.
Roark said, “When students came and expressed their concerns and sentiments of pain and hurt due to the speaker’s values publicized on Twitter, I developed concern for the safety of students and the well-being of students and so our initial goals were to make sure that all students were able to be present and comfort.”
CLA’s Student Government made additional resources available to students in response to the event, like the campus chaplain and the counseling center.
After a contentious Q&A session that ended with a student slapping an altered picture of the guest speaker, WMNJ, hosted a dance party outside of Crawford Hall to end the empowerment part of the night’s event.