As the nation’s political climate continues to polarize in the wake of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, the Berkeley College Republicans will host conservative journalist and Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who has emerged as one of the more divisive voices from the political milieu, for a talk on campus Feb. 1.
The speaking appointment is part of an 18-stop tour across U.S. colleges, including UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara and UCLA in addition to UC Berkeley. According to Celine Bookin, a campus freshman and member of BCR, Yiannopoulos has attracted supporters from the conservative side — and college republicans in particular — because of his unfiltered way of speaking and disregard of political correctness.
“That’s something conservatives respond well to, including myself, getting things said that need to be said,” Bookin said. “We don’t like dancing around the issues.”
The tour has already been met with controversy since its first stop Dec. 1 at West Virginia University. WVU President E. Gordon Gee released a statement Friday condemning Yiannopoulos’ use of a homophobic slur targeted at a faculty member, but defended the campus’s right to host the speaker. Additionally, Yiannopoulos was banned from Depaul University following a speech he gave in May, which the university said contained “inflammatory language” and created a “hostile environment.”
According to Caiden Nason, vice president of membership of Cal Berkeley Democrats, Yiannopoulos’ appearance has the potential to incite people rather than contribute to conversations.
“Students who have identities attacked by Trump have already been harassed following the election, and Milo’s appearance here is only going to enable more people to harass them,” Nason said in an email. “To UC Berkeley students, Milo’s appearance reflects a group of students on campus who are more interested in causing problems than having conversations.”
Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said in email that “campus administration wishes to make clear that an invitation of this sort in no way suggests our endorsement of a particular point of view,” adding that campus policy allows for open debate at UC Berkeley without interference from the administration.
“While we realize that the presence of certain speakers is likely to upset some members of our campus community, University policy, principles of intellectual and academic freedom, and the U.S. Constitution require that students and faculty members retain the right to invite individuals onto campus to participate,” Mogulof said in an email.
Bookin said while Berkeley is one of the better campuses for free discourse, conservative opinion is still not broadly represented and open debate and diversity of opinion are important for campus. She added that even if members of the student body disagree with Yiannopoulos’ viewpoints, she hopes they will come to the talk with an open mind.
Bookin added that she anticipates some form of backlash from the liberal community at UC Berkeley when Yiannopoulos comes to campus.
“It may or may not involve Milo being able to enter the building he is speaking in, may involve a walk out or a riot, all sorts of things,” Bookin said. “All these things have happened with conservative speakers.”
The location of Yiannopoulos’ talk has not yet been released, nor have tickets been made available for sale. Pieter Sittler, internal vice president of BCR, said members of BCR have chosen not to comment on Yiannopoulos’ talk while logistical plans and security detail are still in progress.
Yiannopoulos’ team could not be reached for comment regarding the speaking engagement.