It’s perhaps not surprising, in today’s cultural environment, that conservative podcaster and filmmaker Adam Carolla has run into resistance over his latest project, a planned documentary about safe spaces and free speech on college campuses.
He’s making a film, “No Safe Spaces,” along with conservative radio show host Dennis Prager. Because of their point of view, the two say they weren’t allowed to host a recent event on a college campus, as the school took issue with the “content” of their planned talk. Footage from the talk was going to be used in the documentary.
This is clearly a rough start for the project — but the university’s refusal to host the two right-leaning figures is ironic proof of the film’s accusations that free speech is stifled and regulated today at colleges and universities.
The school, California State University, Northridge, was the first stop on Carolla and Prager’s cross-country tour. The “No Safe Space” filmmakers, Justin Folk and R.J. Moeller, sent a letter to the university through their lawyers, which was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
“It appears your institution may have caused damage by committing unlawful content-based discrimination against my client and others,” said Kurt Schlicter, of Schlicter and Schonack, in the letter.
The filmmakers claim that university representatives were concerned about campus protests and nixed the appearance at the last minute through a letter, stating, “The scope and logistics around the event is just not feasible.”
It’s not the first time conservatives or right-of-center figures have not been allowed to speak on college campuses. The issue is partly what inspired “No Safe Spaces” in the first place. “Spaces” is meant to be a firsthand account of modern-day college safe spaces — designated campus areas that include things like teddy bears and bubble makers in light of “traumatic” events for students, such as sombrero-themed parties and the presidential victory of Donald J. Trump.
It’s also a documentary examining the limited free speech that’s available today on most college campuses, specifically when it comes to conservative-leaning guests.
“It is disturbing that a public university would seek to remove an event from its campus because of the ‘content’ involved,” said the letter from Schlicter on behalf of the two filmmakers. “To then back down from the ‘content’ claim and now use a laughable ‘logistics’ excuse is also disturbing.”
Still, the campus stuck to its “logistics” defense in response to The Hollywood Reporter about the debacle. “Availability is the first step, not the last one, and there were enough dangling loose ends for me to deny the request, for their sake and ours. We need to start from scratch. I want this event to occur. The police department will determine the necessary level of security,” said Rick Evans, president and executive director of the University Corporation.
Evans claimed, “I’m confident there’s a time and place for this event. Discussions about security concerns and electronics had not taken place yet.” He added that both Carolla and Prager had hosted an event at the campus three years prior.
The filmmakers insist the reasons are political. Their letter states they were strung along for six weeks, understanding the event would take place and was set to go — until it was abruptly canceled by the university. They allege they were told that “people higher up [in] the food chain” disapproved of Carolla and Prager’s “content.”
The campus has previously hosted such guests as former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.
No matter the early fork in the road, “No Safe Spaces” appears to be moving forward. Its already difficult road may be a blessing in disguise — the resistance to Carolla’s actions prove he’s onto something all too real.