Chancellor Christ reemphasizes ‘more speech’ in face of hate speech

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Joshua Jordan/Staff

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Chancellor Carol Christ spoke at an event Thursday evening hosted by the Berkeley Forum, a nonpartisan campus student organization, to reemphasize the campus’s commitment to free speech.

About 250 students, faculty and community members attended the talk, titled “Free Speech and Community.” After Christ gave her opening remarks, she engaged in a Q&A session with the forum’s head moderator Shaina Zuber, and she also answered questions from the audience.

“More speech, I think, is the most important counter to hateful speech. Counter their arguments — show how wrong and bigoted … they are,” Christ said to the audience. “Invite your own speakers.”

Christ’s Berkeley Forum talk comes about a week after she sent out a campuswide email confirming that conservative writers Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos had both been invited by student groups to speak on campus in September. Christ has also called the 2017-18 academic year a “free speech year” on multiple occasions.

At the forum event, Christ stressed free speech as a constitutional guarantee and explained exceptions to that guarantee as outlined by the law. So long as speakers do not violate these exceptions by using speech that presents “an immediate threat” or is “pervasive” enough to create “an intimidating, hostile or demeaning atmosphere” towards an individual — groups are not included in this legal exception — they will be allowed to speak, Christ said.

The chancellor also said she believes free speech is fundamental to democracy and cited the civil rights movement and anti-war activism as examples of when free speech served as the foundation of broader social movements.

Christ rejected platform denial, which she defined as prohibiting invited speakers to voice their opinions, because she said it leads to giving “odious speakers more recognition than they deserve.” She explicitly denounced speech against marginalized groups because she believes it violates the values of the UC Berkeley campus.

During the audience Q&A session, Raphael Kadaris, a member of Refuse Fascism, asked Christ how she was able to abstract free speech from power relations evident in society. In response, Christ referenced John Stuart Mill’s philosophy behind free speech — which emphasizes that censorship compromises the truth — but she also added that she believes the narrative of the far-left “colludes” with the narrative of the far-right.

Sufia Siddiqui, a UC Berkeley alumna and Berkeley resident who attended the event, said recent experiences with “confrontations” in the city have left her wary of using her voice as a Muslim. In addition, Siddiqui asked Christ if the campus and the community are the only ones paying for the heightened security measures during events featuring controversial speakers, to which Christ replied yes.

Nihal Singh, a conservative UC Berkeley alumnus, said he appreciated the chancellor’s commitment to holding violent individuals accountable. According to Singh, free speech means the ability to have “open and fearless dialogue” in order to “arrive at the truth of the matter.”

“We are in a critical moment in Berkeley history where the right is attempting to hijack our core values,” Christ said to the crowd. “We need to reclaim these values and reclaim our right to free speech.”

Francesca Munsayac covers student life. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @fcfm_dc.

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  • Curtisandelizabeth Hubbard

    I’m pretty sure what this lady and most others at Berkeley call hate speech is in fact reality. Leftists worldview often runs contrary to reality and they make others suffer for it.

  • Nunya Beeswax

    Good for her. I hope she’s able to stay the course.

  • Leila Blanc

    Sure money doing trading? Do a search for ‘’Emini S&P Trading Secret’’.

  • X Ray

    Give them a soap box and let em’ stand on it in Sproul Plaza, spewing their hate like every other crazy person. THAT’s free speech.

    Giving them a forum sponsored by the University? That’s not free speech; that’s a goddamned endorsement by the *same* university that gave one to Maher and hired Yoo when no one else would .

    Starting to see a pattern, yet?

    • FreedomFan

      Everyone with a brain sees the pattern:
      * Only Democrats are allowed to speak at public universities.
      * Only Democrats are allowed to teach at universities.
      * Only Democrats are allowed to be hired by mainstream media.
      * Only Democrats are allowed to be openly political in Hollywood.
      No fascism here, comrade…

    • zzz

      So allowing a speech by Angela Davis at UCB is an endorsement of Stalinism by the University?

    • Curtisandelizabeth Hubbard

      I’m sure what you call hate is in fact reality. Leftist world view often runs contrary to reality.

  • FreedomFan

    Thank you for your defense of free speech, Chancellor Carol Christ.

    By the way, why were tickets to the Shapiro event delayed until the last minute?

  • Killer Marmot

    Christian’s views are what Berkeley needs to thread the needle between authoritarianism, where only a narrow set of views are tolerated, and violence between opposing factions. I hope she implements them effectively.

  • Dan

    She will cancel free speech week watch

  • Grandpa Dino

    Wow! Mrs. Christ hit a pop fly to foul ground on this one. Free speech for exeryone EXCEPT … That hole is big enough to drive a truck through!

    What are the ‘core values’ that the good lady is afraid that the conservatives are hijacking? The left-wing core values have been the promotion of abortion, homosexuality, drug use, open borders, socialism. I could go on and on.

    By the way, I lived through the FSM and anti-war protests at Berkeley. BA 1973.

    BTW: Nice win against North Carolina yesterday. Go Bears!

    • CSears

      It would help if you quoted her actual words which said anything close to “Free speech for everyone EXCEPT …”. She confirmed that Ben Shapiro and Yiannopoulos have been invited. So it wasn’t those words.

      Which words were they?

    • Killer Marmot

      Free speech for everyone EXCEPT … who?

    • CSears

      “Free speech for everyone EXCEPT … ”

      Where does Chancellor Christ say anything remotely like this?

    • Nunya Beeswax

      She is not required to pretend that she doesn’t have a point of view. None of us are.

      • Rollie

        You’re absolutely right, but in my opinion Christ’s message would be stronger if she (voluntarily) kept her personal views out of the matter, presenting a sort of neutrality. It’s all well and good for her to say that she supports the right to express ideas that she personally finds objectionable, but an even better message would be to tell students that it doesn’t matter what she or any university officials think of any speaker, that any personal viewpoints about the content of speech are irrelevant in a professional context. I’m afraid that many students, even while agreeing that “controversial viewpoints should be allowed expression, somehow see it as a concession, or even something heroic, rather the plain requirement of the Constitution.

        To be clear, I greatly admire Christ for her stance so far, but let’s realize that it’s exceptional only in light of Berkeley’s recent history, and otherwise it’s merely what a chancellor should be doing. There are enough viewpoints flying around Berkeley to choke a horse, and it’s a beautiful thing, but I just think that Christ would set a better example as a professional by being dispassionate in her duties.