DePaul University’s Women and Gender Studies department have responded to Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ visit on Tuesday in an open letter to the University and the College Republicans who hosted him.
The letter accused Yiannopoulos of “violent, sexist, transphobic and racist rhetoric” and slammed the university’s president for apologizing to the College Republicans over the disruption of their event. The letter also calls for an “investigation into the conduct” of the College Republicans over their alleged involvement in “racialized chalking” incidents earlier this year.
An Open Letter to DePaul University Administration and College Republicans from Women and Gender Studies Students,
On Tuesday, May 24th, College Republicans held an event in which Milo Yiannopoulos sat in discussion with a student member of College Republicans. Mr. Y is not an intellectual. He is a popular media figure who routinely uses his platform to engage in violent, sexist, transphobic, and racist rhetoric. Mr. Y has a history of inciting racial and gendered conflict at his events at campuses across the country, and he has repeatedly stated publicly that such incidents are a part of his media strategy. What occurred yesterday on our campus largely adhered to that pattern. However, the participation of the College Republicans student members in this type of rhetoric and its attack on our department was unique. Prior to the event, one of our Women and Gender Studies students was explicitly referenced by Mr. Y on Twitter and faced threats of sexual violence from his fans and followers on social media. Throughout the past week, the event was marketed by College Republicans to students with a flyer distributed on campus that explicitly referenced feminists and gender studies classrooms in a derogatory way.
A few minutes after the event began, several black student protesters and white allies succeeded in peacefully stalling the event. As they remained on the stage, Milo stoked the crowd by making sexually explicit, racialized remarks in reference to the black students. The mostly male, mostly white audience responded with a chant of “CPD! CPD!”
In a city wracked by police murders against unarmed black youth of color, where unarmed black people are far more likely to be gunned down by police than their white counterparts, we can infer that this cheer was not merely a call for arrest but rather a dangerous call for state violence against peaceful protesters. Shockingly, rather than condemn this chant or attempt to silence it, the College Republicans’ student representative and moderator for the event both joined this call for violence against their fellow students. We stand in solidarity with those who protested the event and condemn the actions of the College Republicans student leadership who participated in this shameful rhetoric.
Today in an email to students and faculty regarding this event, University President Reverend Holtschneider apologized to the College Republicans for the interruption of their event. This is unacceptable. We categorically reject this apology and ask that Rev. Holtschneider clarify whether this apology represents the University’s official position regarding College Republicans actions at yesterday’s event. The Women and Gender Studies students who were harassed on social media by Mr. Y in advance of his appearance are still awaiting an apology, as are the already marginalized students who felt their physical safety was threatened by the deliberate escalation of the conflict by Mr. Y and those students who hosted him.
The decision made by College Republicans to invite Milo Yiannopoulos as a speaker was not done in good faith or as an effort to foster discussion as their student leaders claim. His sexist and racist rhetoric is not a marginalized or diverse point of view. They and he represent a violent and vocal status quo. In the wake of the event, many students have spoken out about how they felt victimized and threatened by the University and the College Republicans’ choice to give him a platform on our campus. It is our view that College Republicans leadership used the event to stoke racial and gendered conflict and create a climate of fear and intimidation on campus for minority students. Furthermore, because the flyer used to market the event to students deliberately attacked feminists and explicitly named “gender studies” departments, their sponsorship and solicitation of Mr. Y constituted a threat to our right to exist as a department, and to conduct feminist inquiry as a course of study.
As students of feminist theory, we are committed to liberation for the oppressed and their ability to lead lives of their choosing, free of violence. In their choice to bring Mr. Y to our school and engage wholeheartedly in hateful rhetoric, College Republicans have not only subjected the marginalized in our University community to violence, but have forced us to call the mission and legitimacy of their organization into question.
In his email to students and faculty, Rev. Holtschneider mentioned the Bill of Rights. However, it is not only the First Amendment that governs speech on campus, but also the University’s own policies. College Republicans have this year engaged in a pattern of discriminatory speech, including multiple incidents where racialized rhetoric was chalked across campus. This must stop. We believe that this pattern violates the Standards of Involvement governing student organizations, the first of which requires that student organizations uphold “the Vincentian values of diversity, pluralism, socially responsible leadership, mission, and service.” The Student Organization Handbook explicitly references the University policy on speech, which states: “Speech whose primary purpose is to wound is inconsistent with our Vincentian and Catholic values.” University’s own mission and policies in mind, we are calling for an immediate investigation into the conduct of College Republicans at yesterday’s event and incidents prior, and a review of their charter as an official University organization. Until that review is complete we demand that funding for College Republicans and their campus activities cease.
DePaul Women and Gender Studies Students and Faculty
Black Lives Matter protesters stormed the stage during Yiannopoulos’ visit on Tuesday, forcibly taking the microphone from the event moderator and threatening to punch Yiannopoulos while stopping the event from continuing. Fifteen security guards who Breitbart were forced to hire by the university refused to intervene. Since the debacle, DePaul’s Facebook rating has dropped to 1.1 out of 5 stars, with over seven thousand one-star ratings and reviews.