Anti-Free Speech UC Berkeley Professors Demand MILO Ban Ahead of Show

A group of UC Berkeley professors have demanded that Breitbart Senior Editor MILO be banned from the campus ahead of his show on February 1st, prompting the college’s chancellor to defend MILO’s constitutional right to speak.

In their letter to UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, the professors falsely accuse MILO of advocating “white supremacy” and claim that though they allegedly support free speech and academic freedom, MILO should be counted as an exception.

“We are writing to implore you to cancel a planned speaking engagement by Milo Yiannopoulos, who has been invited by Berkeley College Republicans for February 1, 2017,” wrote the professors in the letter. “We support both freedom of speech and academic freedom on campus and realize that controversial views must be tolerated in any campus community dedicated to open debate and opposed to censorship. Although we object strenuously to Yiannopoulos’s views – he advocates white supremacy, transphobia, and misogyny  – it is rather his harmful conduct to which we call attention in asking for the cancellation of this event.”

“We will enumerate some of his views below, but also then focus on his conduct, the repetition of which would clearly violate the codes of conduct that operate to keep the campus a harassment-free space for our whole community,” they continued. “We understand that if a decision to cancel were based on the political viewpoints he holds, we ourselves could become subject to censorship under other circumstances. We support robust debate, but we cannot abide by harassment, slander, defamation, and hate speech.”

The professors also cited other universities that have canceled MILO’s appearances to encourage Dirks to do the same:

We direct your attention to several reports of his conduct as well as successful efforts on the part of other universities to cancel his events, including the problems faced by universities that did not anticipate his harassment tactics in advance. His talks scheduled at NYU, University of Miami, Florida State University last month were all cancelled; the NYU administration cited concerns for community safety, and De Paul has issued a statement claiming that he will not be invited back to campus.  Other campuses, Yale and Columbia, have postponed his visit, in Yale’s case “indefinitely.”

The office of Chancellor Dirks defended MILO’s right to speak in their response to the professors, citing the United States Constitution as the reason why the college cannot ban MILO from appearing based on his political views.

“Thank you for your note and expression of concern. I am writing in response on behalf of Chancellor Dirks,” Dirks’ office wrote in an official response. “Mr. Yiannopoulos was invited to the university by the independent student group that is hosting him, the Berkeley College Republicans. The campus administration wishes to make clear that an invitation of this sort in no way suggests our endorsement of a particular point of view, and we will continue to affirm our commitment to the values of diversity, equality, and tolerance that underlie the greatness of Berkeley and, indeed, of our nation.”

“Registered Student Organizations at Berkeley receive the benefit of reserving space at the Student Union free of charge for events, including presentation of invited speakers. Under well-established law, the First Amendment prohibits the University from censoring those events or banning speakers based on the viewpoints that might be expressed,” it continued. “Berkeley Campus Regulations make clear that RSOs are separate legal entities from the University, and RSOs are strictly prohibited from claiming that their activities are sponsored, endorsed or favored by the University. So, it is the organization, not the University that is the ‘host’ of this event, since the University did not issue the invitation and has no authority to disapprove the speaker. It is of course up to you whether you wish to take up the probity of this invitation directly with the Berkeley College Republicans.”

While we realize (and regret) that the presence of certain speakers is very likely to upset some members of our campus community, the U.S. Constitution, and thus University policy, prevent campus administration from barring invited speakers from campus based on the viewpoints those speakers may express. Contrary to widely held beliefs, the courts have made it very clear that there is no general exception to First Amendment protection for “hate” speech or speech that is deemed to be discriminatory. Our Constitution does not permit the University to engage in prior restraint of a speaker out of fear that he might engage in even hateful verbal attacks.

While you are correct about NYU and DePaul, the legal situation is not analogous. Unlike private colleges and universities, as a public institution the University of California must respect the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment. In addition, at the University of Miami and Yale, it was the relevant student groups, not the campus administration, that cancelled or delayed Mr. Yiannopoulos’s appearance; the speaker himself delayed his event at Columbia; and reports indicate that Mr. Yiannopoulos has, in fact, already appeared at Florida State University.

I can assure you that the University and UCPD are highly attentive to safety concerns and will not hesitate to act to ensure the security and protection of campus community members, as well as the public at large. However, the University may not engage in prior restraint of speech based on concern that a speaker’s message may trigger disruptions. We also note that at the heart of these constitutional rules is the objective of preventing opponents from effectively shutting down expressive activity that they don’t like, the “heckler’s veto” as it is often known. This, of course, should be of some concern for all who seek to advocate for any particular point of view.

The professors responded to the chancellor’s statement in another attempt to have MILO banned for “harassment,” however the university’s decision did not change.

Student and College Republican Troy Worden condemned the professors’ attempts to stifle free speech, claiming that “they do not grasp the gravity not the extent of first-amendment protections.”

“I am familiar with a few of the professors who sent out this anti-free speech letter. David Landreth, for instance, taught a Shakespeare course I took last spring; I have heard Judith Butler speak and read some of her work” said Worden in a statement to Breitbart Tech. “These individuals are incredibly intelligent and skilled in their fields of expertise, but they do not grasp the gravity nor the extent of first-amendment protections.”

“Mr. Yiannopoulos is a provocative speaker, yes, but he is fully within his rights to express his opinions, and the Berkeley College Republicans are fully within theirs in inviting him to UC Berkeley” he continued. “These professors assert Milo is a ‘white supremacist’, but if they actually bothered to conduct research in a rigorous manner befitting their academic qualifications, they would discover this accusation has no basis in fact and that even NBC retracted the exact same claim about Mr. Yianopoulos in a recent article.”

Worden continued to declare that “Without a doubt these professors are failing their students and their profession by attempting to silence free speech,” adding “Real knowledge or understanding is best gained through dialogue, which these professors should know if they have bothered to read any work by Plato.”

“Mr. Yiannopoulos provides legitimate counterclaims on topics such as the gender wage gap, campus rape culture, and transgenderism: these professors have not rebutted Mr. Yiannopoulos’ claims with any form of reason or evidence in their letter – they would prefer to shut him down rather than allow their students to hear points of view contrary to their own,” concluded Worden. “This is a betrayal of their life-work as members of the Academy. Concerned students should not and cannot remain silent: they must write The Daily Cal, these professors, and the administration, calling on them to refrain from restricting free speech where it is needed most, namely, at UC Berkeley, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement.”

The following professors signed the letter in an attempt to stifle MILO’s right to speak:

Elizabeth Abel, Professor, Department of English

Wendy Brown, Class of 1936 First Chair, Department of Political Science

Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor, Department of Comparative Literature

Ian Duncan, Professor, Department of English

Donna Jones, Associate Professor, Department of English

David Landreth, Associate Professor, Department of English

Saba Mahmood, Professor, Department of Anthropology

Linda Rugg, Professor, Department of Scandinavian and Associate Dean of Arts and Humanities

Elena Schneider, Assistant Professor, Department of History

Susan Schweik, Professor, Department of English

Estelle Tarica, Associate Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Katrin Wehrheim, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics

Damon Young, Assistant Professor, Departments of French and Film and Media Studies

Gregory Levine, Associate Professor, Department of History of Art

Lauren Williams, Professor, Department of Mathematics

Jon Wilkening, Associate Professor, Vice Chair for Graduate Affairs, Mathematics

Janet Sorensen, Associate Professor, English

Leslie Salzinger, Associate Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies

Khalid Kadir, Lecturer, International and Area Studies

Tamara Roberts, Associate Professor, Music

Clélia Donovan, Lecturer, Spanish and Portuguese

Elisa Tamarkin, Associate Professor, English

Julia Bryan-Wilson, Associate Professor, Modern and Contemporary Art

Jeffrey Skoller, Associate Professor, Film & Media

Déborah Blocker, Associate Professor, French, with an affiliation in Italian Studies

Rachel Morello-Frosch, Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management & School of Public health

Katherine Snyder, Associate Professor, English

Mark Goble, Associate Professor, English

Alberto Grunbaum, Professor, Department of Mathematics

Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures

Soraya Tlatli, Associate Professor, Department of French

Barbara A. Barnes, Lecturer, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies

Colleen Lye, Associate Professor, English

Charles Hirschkind, Associate Professor, Anthropology

Saba Mahmood, Professor, Anthropology

Ivonne del Valle, Associate Professor, Spanish and Portuguese

Daniel G. Chatman, Associate Professor, City and Regional Planning

Patricia Penn Hilden, Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies

Katherine Sherwood, Professor Emerita, Department of Art Practice

Charis Thompson, Professor, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies

Ayse Agis, Continuing Lecturer, Gender and Women’s Studies

Minoo Moallem, Gender and Women’s Studies

Lawrence Cohen, Sarah Kailath Professor of India Studies, Department of Anthropology

Emiliano Gomez, Lecturer and Academic Coordinator, Department of Mathematics

Paola Bacchetta, Associate Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies

Ian Agol, Professor, Department of Mathematics

Joanna Picciotto, Associate Professor, English

Laura C. Nelson, Associate Professor, Gender & Women’s Studies

Cori Hayden, Associate Professor, Anthropology

Hung-Hsi Wu, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics

Geoffrey G. O’Brien, Associate Professor, English

Scott Saul, Professor, English

Kevis Goodman, Associate Professor, English

Mary Ann Smart, Gladyce Arata Terrill Professor, Music

Katherine Snyder, Associate Professor, English

Stephen A. Rosenbaum, John & Elizabeth Boalt Lecturer, School of Law

Jake Kosek, Associate Professor, Geography

Victoria Robinson, Ethnic Studies

Celeste Langan, Associate Professor, English

Hertha D. Sweet Wong, Associate Professor and Vice-Chair, Department of English

Alastair Iles, Associate Professor of Environmental Policy and Societal Change

Anne-Lise François, Associate Professor, English and Comparative Literature

Davitt Moroney, Professor, Music; University Organist
Jean-Paul Bourdier, Professor, Architecture Department

Natalia Brizuela, Associate Professor, Spanish & Portuguese

Line Mikkelsen, Associate Professor, Linguistics

Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, Professor, History of Art

Shannon Steen, Associate Professor, Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies

Morris W. Hirsch,  Professor Emeritus, Mathematics

Jenny Harrison Professor, Mathematics

James Vernon, Professor, History

Debarati Sanyal, Professor, French

Christine Rosen, Associate Professor, Haas School of Business

Waldo E. Martin, Jr., Morrison Professor of American History and Citizenship

Robin Einhorn, Preston Hotchkis Professor in the History of the United States

Kristin Hanson, Associate Professor, English

Patricia Baquedano-Lopez, Associate Professor of Education

Joseph Wolf, Professor Emeritus, Mathematics

You-tien Hsing, Professor, Geography

Glynda Hull, Professor, Education

Richard B. Norgaard, Professor Emeritus of Energy and Resources

Ellen L. Simms, Professor of Integrative Biology

Katherine Snyder, Associate Professor, Department of English

Kathleen Donegan, Associate Professor, Department of English and Associate Dean of Arts and Humanities

Trinh T. Minh-ha, Professor of  Rhetoric and of Gender & Women’s Studies

Suzanne Guerlac, Professor, Department  of  French

Mel Y. Chen, Associate Professor, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies

Margaret W. Conkey, Department of Anthropology

Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, Professor, History of Art

Mariane C Ferme, Professor, Department of Anthropology

Lyn Hejinian, John F Hotchkis Professor of English

Michael Watts, Professor Emeritus, Geography

Antonio Montalban, Associate Professor, Mathematics

Samera Esmeir, Associate Professor, Rhetoric

Louise Fortmann, Professor Emerita, Dept of Environmental Science, Policy and Management

Joseph Lavery, Assistant Professor, Dept. of English

Lynn Huntsinger, Professor, Dept Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Ramona Naddaff, Associate Professor, Rhetoric

Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, Near Eastern Studies and Rhetoric

Gillian Hart, Professor Emerita, Geography

Charles C. Pugh, Professor Emeritus, Mathematics

Miryam Sas, Professor and Chair, Comparative Literature: Professor of Film & Media

Mark Anderson, Professor of Architecture

Darieck Scott, Associate Professor, African American Studies Dept

Juana María Rodríguez, Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies

Nadia Ellis, Associate Professor, English

Charlie Nash is a reporter for Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter @MrNashington or like his page at Facebook.


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