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Free Speech Battle in Berkeley – What You Need to Know

The recent issue concerning university free-speech—or lack thereof—has become a hot topic amongst many college campuses across the country. This past February, speaker Milo Yiannopolus planned to speak at the University of California, Berkeley. This event was canceled; however, due to violent protests that caused turmoil and unlawfulness at the campus. Roughly one thousand left-wing students protested outside where Yiannopolus was supposed to speak when a group of masked “Anti-Fascist” extremists joined in, leading to smashed windows, arson, and other uncivil behavior. The group that planned Yiannopolus’ speech, the Berkeley Patriot, wrote that they had been “subjected to extraordinary pressure and resistance, if not outright hostility,” from university officials.

In September, the Berkeley Patriot filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, claiming that their First-Amendment rights had been violated by the University, and that the University imposed “arbitrary and irrational bureaucratic hurdles on student groups which seek to exercise their First Amendment rights by holding public debates,” referring to the cancelled Yiannopolus speech.

Colleges and universities across the country should not be able to pick and choose speakers who come to their campus solely on their political beliefs. There is no excuse for Universities, especially public ones such as UC Berkeley, to attempt to brainwash their students to fit a specific political agenda.

The “Patriot” planned to hold a “Free Speech Week” at Berkeley starting on September 24, featuring appearances by Milo Yiannopolus, Ann Coulter, Steve Bannon, Pamela Geller, and other right-wing speakers. Yet on September 23, it was announced via the UC Berkeley website that all events taking place between September 24-27 were canceled, despite the name “Free Speech Week” being clearly absent. University Chancellor Carol Christ sent a message to the campus community saying, “I want to first express my deep regret about the stress this is causing for many members of our campus community and the burden it is placing on people to continue their regular routines in the midst of what will cause a disruption here,” later adding that “the ideas likely to be expressed by some of the speakers next week run counter to our Principles of Community, particularly the one that affirms the dignity of all individuals and encourages us to strive to uphold a just community where discrimination and hate are not tolerated.”

Conservative commentator and podcast host Ben Shapiro was recently allowed to speak at the University, which was only made possible by intense security measures. University police created a closed perimeter around the hall he was speaking at and other nearby buildings, which subsequently closed off all public access to each building the afternoon before he was set to speak. The city of Berkeley was also forced to ban any object that could be used for protests and riots, including sticks, pipes, and poles. The event was held, however, and Shapiro was able to freely speak to his audience and have them listen respectively.

Do these conservative figures speak “hate?” Frankly, I say no, with the slight exception of Milo Yiannopolus. Yiannopolus is a controversial individual who was recently dismissed from Breitbart News due to an inappropriate joke. He is a self-proclaimed “provocateur” who seeks debate against liberals using frank, politically “incorrect” language. But the remainder of the speakers really shouldn’t be viewed as hate speakers, as their sole purpose is to visit a left-wing university to speak to their minority, right-wing students.

Colleges and universities across the country should not be able to pick and choose speakers who come to their campus solely on their political beliefs. There is no excuse for Universities, especially public ones such as UC Berkeley, to attempt to brainwash their students to fit a specific political agenda. College should be an environment for listening and respectful debate, where each student has the freedom given to them by our constitution to make their own beliefs and say what they want to say.

What happened at Berkeley is atrocious. Let’s just pray it never happens at Wake.

2 Comments

  1. Berkeley has a long tradition of struggles over free speech.
    Ron Reagan, as he ran for governor of California, complained about undergraduate “malcontents,” As Election Day neared, he denounced invitations issued by students at the University of California, Berkeley, to two speakers: Robert F. Kennedy, who was slated to talk about civil rights, and Stokely Carmichael, who had been asked by the Students for a Democratic Society to deliver the keynote address at a conference on Black Power. “We cannot have the university campus used as a base from which to foment riots,” Reagan said. He urged Carmichael, at that time the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), to decline the invitation—a clever way to guarantee that Carmichael would accept.
    Reagan won the election fueled by inciting opposition to the Free Speech Movement. Even after he won the governorship, he said “Free speech does not require furnishing a podium for the speaker,” he said. “I don’t think you should lend these people the prestige of our university campuses for the presentation of their views.” Eventually he engineered the firing of University Chancellors who were not strict enough in limiting free speech.

  2. Donald Trump’s press secretary Sanders wants the University of Las Vegas to investigate one of its professors after she strongly criticized President Donald Trump and the consequences of his election as the city reeled from the mass shooting.
    Recordings of assistant professor Tessa Winkelmann showed her speaking to her class about the president’s violent rhetoric and the power of his words. The White House condemned the comments and said the school should “look into” the professor’s speech. Conservatives who advocate for free speech on college campuses, should not remain quiet when the White House suggested disciplinary action be taken against a professor who was well within her free speech rights.

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