Administrators at Cal State LA canceled a speech by conservative journalist Ben Shapiro after students complained that they feared for their safety and compared the event to an “undercover KKK meeting,” according to e-mails obtained exclusively by Heat Street.

But once Cal State canceled the event, they faced a massive backlash from students, parents and alumni concerned that the University was infringing on free speech. The Shapiro situation has since become a cautionary tale for campus administrators who single out conservative thinkers for censorship and cancellation.

Heat Street obtained e-mails related to the cancellation of Shapiro’s speech through the Freedom of Information Act. They show that two months before Cal State found itself in the national spotlight for canceling Shapiro’s speech, administrators had already begun to worry about controversy.

On Dec. 7, 2015, Scott Bowman, dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences, emailed top administrators, including President William Covino, to let them know a conservative group on campus planned to invite Shapiro to speak.

“I think the students have the right to hear what he has to say,” Bowman said, mentioning that he had listened to Shapiro’s earlier address at the University of Missouri. “On the other hand, it could be explosive in the current environment. Nothing he says is hate speech in my view but his critiques of the Left’s obsession with micro-aggressions and various tactics of groups (e.g., Black Lives Matter) would be labeled racist by them, which is his point, by the way.”

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