Update 04/11/2017: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from David Horowitz.
The Berkeley College Republicans, or BCR, collaborated with Young Americans for Freedom to invite conservative author and speaker David Horowitz to speak on campus April 12 in Clark Kerr Campus’ Krutch Theater.
Horowitz, a UC Berkeley alumnus, founded the Students for Academic Freedom in 2001 and helped draft the “Academic Bill of Rights” as part of an effort to empower conservatives at academic institutions. He also formerly contributed to the National Review.
Pieter Sittler, internal vice president of BCR, said Horowitz was invited to speak on campus because his views resonate with those of BCR. According to Sittler, Horowitz’s commentary can be useful to the campus community.
“He has spoken on a number of issues that are important to our club,” Sittler said. “(In) times like now, David’s commentary is really relevant.”
Caiden Nason, membership vice president of Cal Berkeley Democrats, called Horowitz a “radical leftist” turned “conservative intellectual.” According to Nason, Horowitz’s transition from a far-left thinker to a far-right thinker shows that he is “really just hopping on board any provocative stance that he can.”
“His stances are still terrible to a lot of people, but it is Berkeley College Republicans, so it isn’t surprising that they’re bringing him,” Nason said in an email.
According to Kumars Salehi, a member of campus organization Students for Justice in Palestine, Horowitz holds extremely conservative positions on racial and social justice issues and has allegedly personally targeted him and other other activists on campus, labeling them “anti-Semites” and “terrorist sympathizers.”
But campus junior Omar Mohamed said despite ideological disagreements, he wants to attend the event because he finds common ground with the speaker over his Academic Bill of Rights. Mohamed added that he finds a lack of opposing viewpoints on campus frustrating.
“Regarding academic freedom, (Horowitz’s) views resonate well with a lot of frustrations I have had here in Berkeley,” Mohamed said.
Hannah Rouley, a campus senior, said in a text message that she identifies with many of the opinions held by BCR and Horowitz. According to Rouley, the event will be a good way for Horowitz to talk to students who share his views because conservative voices on campus are not as prevalent as liberal voices.
“(H)e’s interested in academic, political, and intellectual freedom to express views and opinions in a format that I think our campus really struggles with,” Rouley said in a text message.
UAW 2865, a union representing over 16,000 student-workers across the UC system, strongly opposes the notion of giving Horowitz a platform to speak on campus, citing Islamophobic and xenophobic campaigns allegedly funded by the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
According to UAW 2865 Head Steward Beezer de Martelly, Horowitz was “instrumental” in the censorship and temporary suspension of a course on Palestine offered by UC Berkeley in fall 2016. De Martelly said in an email that Horowitz’s organization targets students and faculty who advocate for the liberation of Palestine.
Martelly also alleged in their email that Horowitz advocates for racial purity and white nationalism under the banner of “free speech.” Martelly added that Horowitz allegedly collaborated with Milo Yiannopoulos and Steve Bannon in a “racist project” to target undocumented students and the sanctuary campus movement.
“We … call on the University of California Berkeley to take a principled stand against providing a platform for speakers like him who promote racial terror and genocidal warfare,” Martelly said in an email. “It is well past time for our university to rise up to counter oppression and defend liberation for all people.”
Horowitz denied Martelly’s allegations in an email, emphasizing that he does not target students and faculty who advocate for the liberation of Palestine. According to Horowitz, his family is multiracial and he has a record of supporting civil rights dating back to 1948, when he marched in support of President Harry Truman’s integration of the United States Armed Forces.
“I am indeed opposed to sanctuary cities and campuses but this is hardly racist … since the primary victims of illegal aliens who are criminals are other Hispanics, and the primary victims of the low-wage workforce that illegal immigration represents are African American workers and other minorities at the bottom of the economic ladder,” Horowitz said in his email.
Young Americans for Freedom will pay the event fee, according to Sittler. Sittler added that no security costs have yet been finalized.