Despite protests from progressive student activists, Cal Poly State University President Jeffrey Armstrong issued a memo defending Breitbart Senior Editor MILO’s right to speak on campus next week.
On Wednesday afternoon, Armstrong issued the following memo to the entire campus community:
Many of you have raised concerns about Milo Yiannopoulos, a guest speaker invited by the Cal Poly College Republicans club to present at Cal Poly on January 31, 2017.
Several individuals who find Mr. Yiannopoulos’ comments offensive have contacted the university and demanded that he not be permitted to speak. To be clear, it is not the role of a public institution such as ours to endorse any position or decide who should or should not be allowed to appear on campus. Indeed, numerous guest speakers considered by many to be controversial or offensive have presented at our university throughout its history.
Armstrong’s statement is true. In 2012, he also quietly dismissed those who were protesting conservative commentator Ann Coulter’s right to speak on campus.
Challenging the “safe space” rhetoric of his counterparts, Armstrong continued to emphasize that “Public universities such as Cal Poly represent communities where the free exchange of opposing ideas is both encouraged and necessary.”
“It is, in fact, the university’s responsibility to support the rights of all people to express their opinions and ideas – regardless of how unpopular they may be – while also encouraging students to think critically and independently,” he explained. “It is only in this environment that students hone the ability to consider a spectrum of information and reach informed and intelligent conclusions.”
“The real danger is not the expression of controversial voices – it is censorship and the restriction of free speech,” continued Armstrong. “Freedom of speech is a foundational tenet of higher education and a functional democracy. It does not allow for the suppression of viewpoints based upon popularity or individual perspectives. Rather, open expression of a diversity of ideas and opinions – including those we may not agree with – ensures rich discussion, debate and critical thought.”
“Protecting freedom of speech is not an option,” Armstrong concluded. “[I]t is a critical responsibility that the university, and all of us as members of a democratic society, must defend.”