Conservative political commentator Steven Crowder held a special edition of his popular segment “Change My Mind” in front of Gregory Gym on Monday.
The segment, which has turned into a meme on social media, usually consists of Crowder debating controversial topics with college students. But during his visit to UT, Crowder broke from tradition by also facilitating debates between two students instead of debating with just one student.
“I would describe (the format) as … rationalizing your point of view … and going through a line of questioning to see if it’s a logically credible position on a controversial issue,” Crowder said to a crowd of over 100 students. “(We want you) to attack other people’s ideas or positions, not the person.”
The event involved debates about contentious statements such as, “There are only two genders,” “I’m pro-life,” “Build the wall,” “America is superior to any other country” and “I’m pro-gun.”
“We brought Crowder on campus (because he) is really good at having legitimate conversations about important public policy issues without escalating it,” said Saurabh Sharma, chairman of Young Conservatives of Texas and a biochemistry senior. “Everything about the way he creates these events is all about making sure that a proper conversation is possible. It’s all about actually engaging with the ideas and talking about the important issues that face us.“
When Crowder announced they would be trying out a different format, some members of the crowd booed out of disappointment, but others, such as YCT member Samuel Samson, were excited to try something new.
“One of the things … people on the left (will say they) don’t like about these Crowder events is that, ‘Oh we lost the debate because Steven is a professional debater,’” government sophomore Samson said. “But at this event, their points were being addressed by students just like them.”
Crowder gave many of the participants tips after their discussions on how they could have done better or laid out their arguments in a clearer way — including Samson, who argued that there are only two genders.
“(Crowder) told me personally afterward, ‘You could’ve accomplished what you accomplished in five minutes if you had just hit on these things,’” Samson said.
International relations sophomore Lucas Test-Peralta argued sex and gender are two different things when he debated Crowder’s claim that there are only two genders.
“I think when it comes down to a lot of these issues, there are a lot of things we actually find similar in our viewpoints, and if you just talk them out like this you can get down to the exact, specific things we disagree on,” Test-Peralta said.
The event lasted from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., with Crowder and participants rotating through various topics.
“When everyone says things are getting worse and the next generation is becoming less capable, I actually see a generation of people who are becoming more capable … and I would say more passionate about conversations and rationalizing (their) own arguments,” Crowder said. “That’s why we want to eventually transition it to (students) doing all of the ‘Change My Minds’ … to change people’s minds on your campus.”