UC Berkeley students worry about safety, class disruptions during ‘Free Speech Week’

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Deborah Chen/Staff

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Many campus community members have expressed concerns about how “Free Speech Week” will affect their ability to continue their academic studies.

UC Berkeley has been the site of many controversial free speech events recently, leading to large protests and provoking outrage from the community. Some campus students and faculty fear that these events are disrupting classes and threatening their safety.

Conservative speaker Ben Shapiro held an event on campus Thursday, sparking a large protest of about 1,000 people. Milo Yiannopoulos, whose previous event in February was canceled due to violent protests, is now scheduled to return to campus for Free Speech Week from Sept. 24-27. Several provocative speakers are planning to attend the events, including former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and conservative author Ann Coulter.

“I think what the school is trying to do is nice to show that everybody really does have free speech but, at the same time, I’m paying a lot of money to be coming here,” said campus freshman Jasmine Vielma. “I’m working my ass off to study and stuff, so when I have to be scared of coming onto campus or when I have to miss a class that I have to pay for because of something that I’m not involved in — it’s kind of unfair.”

Vielma said she was disappointed that her classes and instructors’ office hours were canceled Thursday because of Shapiro’s speech because she wasn’t able to review with her class for her upcoming midterm.

ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Andrew-Ian Bullitt said he and other ASUC executive officers have been contacted by students concerned for their safety, particularly in classrooms that are located near Sproul Plaza, where many of the events during Free Speech Week are scheduled to take place.

“Students have told me in particular that ‘there would be no way’ that they would be able to study for midterms during the nights before the events took place on campus,” Bullitt said in an email. “They described the national spotlight, as well as presence of extremist groups on both sides as being an extreme distraction from their studies.”

Many ASUC Senators have created a petition for the Administration and Faculty Senate to prioritize students’ physical and psychological safety, according to Bullitt. The petition requests that staff members reschedule all midterms that fall during Free Speech Week and allow students to submit assignments due during that week either online or at a later date. In the petition, the Senators also insisted that classes either be canceled or made available online.

Bullitt said in his email that ASUC Senator Juniperangelica Cordova-Goff has also initiated a safety program to pair students walking around campus to address safety concerns.

“I’m hearing that some students feel unsafe on campus because of the nature of the speakers and the identities that they hold,” said ASUC Student Advocate Jillian Free. “Some students don’t want to come to campus out of protest and demonstration. Some students who don’t have a personal stake for some reason feel unsafe.”

Campus junior Iliana Lopez said that while her classes have not been canceled for Free Speech Week, her legal studies professor did offer an option for students to take an online quiz Sept. 25 in case they do not feel comfortable coming to class.

Associate professor of film and media Jeffrey Skoller, one of the many campus staff members who signed a letter calling for a boycott of classes and campus activities during Free Speech Week, said he is canceling classes because it is one of the only ways he feels he can protect “vulnerable students.”

“We have a whole range of students that feel targeted by these ‘alt-right’ groups and so we have made it clear that they won’t be required to attend class during these times if they’re afraid to come onto campus,” Skoller said.

Contact Cade Johnson at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @cadejohnson98.

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  • EECS student

    Can I have a peaceful campus so I can study for my midterms??

  • jim hoch

    ” I have to pay for because of something that I’m not involved in — it’s kind of unfair.” That is exactly how I feel about subsidizing you.

  • Edward

    Comments on subjects like this get boring rather quickly as the same four or five people get off the subject at hand and just start insulting each other. In the last few weeks there have been minor variations on The Daily Cal, Berkeleyside and several other local sites. It must be the water.

  • Jack Spencer

    Free Speech means Shut Up and Teach

  • StephanieX

    It’s not “free speech week.” It’s “Hate Week.” Nothing to do with free speech. It’s about trying to normalize hate by latching on to a respectable bandwidth. Information bandwidth is about property rights, not the 1st amendment.

    • SecludedCompoundTTYS

      This makes no sense just fyi. It’s just words that make no sense to anyone who works or lives in the real world.

      • StephanieX

        What do you do for a living? Since you bring up “real world,” I’m curious. I’m a data scientist who is working on Artificial Intelligence. One of the thing’s I need to study is this common human trait called “stupidity.” Thanks for your help.

        • lspanker

          I’m a data scientist who is working on Artificial Intelligence.

          Well, you’re going to need it, since your natural intelligence certainly isn’t up to the job here…

        • Jack Spencer

          Is that what makes you think you are better than the common People?

          • lspanker

            Apparently calling people “ignorant” is the new tactic when the race card gets worn out.

          • Edward

            Said by the person who an hour ago said that somebody’s intelligence “isn’t up to the job”.

          • lspanker

            Has he proved otherwise?

          • StephanieX

            You know the really stupid thing is that I’m politically conservative and support things like strong borders and state rights. This current wave if ignorant demagogues has poisoned the conservative movement with racism, bigotry, and stupidity.

          • lspanker

            The fact you’re lumping in all conservative speakers @ Cal with “racism, bigotry, and stupidity” is quite silly and uninformed on your part. I reserve my accusations of racism for people who are genuinely racist, regardless of whether or not agree with their points of view.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            Lol, you are not conservative at all in the REAL WORLD. Supporting two things that should be supported by everyone is not being conservative. Sorry progressives are so regressive that you point out common sense policies as conservative policies. How old are you? I need it for my information!

        • SecludedCompoundTTYS

          Oh, cool. I’m a business analyst and 34 years old. I’m sure you do a lot of great data entry work! How old are you?
          To your point: You are determining what is “Hate Speech”, obviously anyone with a brain knows that Ben Shapiro is not spewing “hate speech” but just different ideas. If you think anything that challenges your ideas is hate speech then you’re going to have a hard time the rest of your life. Not to mention the 1st amendment is there to protect “Hate Speech” not “Love Speech”. Your argument is tired, played out and is regressive. According to your logic, most of this anti white rhetoric is hate speech. Do you not see the hypocrisy, irony and flat out stupidity? I’m not sure why college students who are all very very privileged cannot handle someone speaking on their campus that disagrees with their views or what they consider hateful. Obviously if someone doesn’t agree with gay marriage and you do, he is going to say some things that you may take as “hateful” against gays so does that mean he doesn’t have the right to speak?
          What do you mean Information Bandwidth is about property rights? Also, to your logic, a lot of black people are saying some very “hateful” things about white people, should they be allowed to speak? My Point: Grow up

          • lspanker

            f you think anything that challenges your ideas is hate speech then you’re going to have a hard time the rest of your life.

            Worth repeating…

        • zzz

          You should study on why when certain types of people reach a tipping point in numbers their group think inclines them to want to censor other people for the safety of the community.

    • lspanker

      Poor baby – do you still cry when the other kids make fun of you?

      • StephanieX

        I’ll ask you the same question since you’re trying to engage on this thread. What do you do for a living? I’m trying to get information about the features of ignorance. Thanks for your help.

        • lspanker

          I’m currently a Project Engineer/Consultant for the environmental division of an oil/chemical/lubricants company, who has been tasked to take over stalled and abandoned projects, evaluate them for technical feasibility and economic viability, and either move them to completion or shut them down. I work with people who come to the table with strong opinions and (hopefully) the facts and data to back up those opinions, or they won’t fare will with me. Your whining about so-called “hate” tells me that you’re a rather fragile little snowflake who has never had to stand on his or her own two feet in a corporate or workplace environment (and certainly nobody who has ever made it through Basic Training in any branch of the Armed Forces). If that the way you respond when having to deal with ideas you don’t like, may I suggest you stick to a career path such a being a pre-school teacher or day care worker, because you’re never going to hack it in the world of science or engineering.

          • StephanieX

            It’s all data to me, sweetheart. Bayes theorem and truth tests are relevant here. Thanks for your help.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            how bout you answer my question above and not his. and how old are you?

          • StephanieX

            Why is my age relevant?

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            The same reason you stated above. I’m trying to get the information about the features of ignorance. How old are you?

          • lspanker

            Because it sounds like you’re a child with precious little real-world experience, that’s why.

          • lspanker

            It’s all data to me, sweetheart. Bayes theorem and truth tests are relevant here.

            Blah, blah, blah. You ever held a real job? Didn’t think so…

          • StephanieX

            I told you I’m a data scientist. My real job is managing investments and working on entrepreneurial projects. I’m ideologically politically conservative, unlike bigoted people like Anne Coulter, Bannon the Bigot, and Milo who are fascists.

          • lspanker

            I told you I’m a data scientist.

            I know what you told me. Your hypersensitivity, however, doesn’t suggest that you have ever held any position of real substance or responsibility.

          • StephanieX

            I’m not hypersensitive. I’m looking for data here. Are you listening? It’s all data to me. I’m working on an AI, so I’m a student of human nature. You’re helping me out, sweetie. Thanks.

          • lspanker

            I’m not hypersensitive.

            If you consider all ideas that you disagree with “hatred”, then you’re definitely hypersensitive. As far as the rest of your babbling, sounds like you have had either too much nose candy or tweak this morning, given your inflated idea of your own self-importance.

          • zzz

            The book The Political Man by Lipsett did a lot of looking into human nature, one concept he came up with was working class authoritarianism, the working class is probably still a bit authoritarian, now the self styled educated over class is really turning the authoritarianism up to eleven. Putting strangers in charge of your mental health as a reason for censorship very strange.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            how old are you?

          • Graeme Stewart

            The constant pointing to your “career” is pretty pathetic and desperate. I know you feel bad for doing next to nothing of genuine good for the community. Please pretend you care about racism as your entire industry ravages POC communities.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            It’s really ironic when you call them bigots.
            big·ot
            ˈbiɡət/Submit
            noun
            a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.
            That is you, a bigot. Progressives are intolerant of others views and opinions, therefore, they must spew insults and call everyone names that don’t even make sense and/or call it “hate speech” which is the reason the 1st amendment is there. To not allow government to stop “hate speech” because its subjective.

          • Graeme Stewart

            “Data scientist”
            Translation: lower level silicon valley busy bee who thinks way to highly of themselves who virtue signals to compensate for their gentrification that is ruining POC communities .

          • CSears

            It isn’t clear whether you got the Hate Week reference. Are you in the right place?

          • lspanker

            Basic Training in the military teaches you responsibility, accountability, and the ability to work with others as part of a cohesive team. If you think it’s just about obedience, it’s clear you don’t know much about the armed forces.

        • SecludedCompoundTTYS

          yea, so according to you, all people without a college education are ignorant and people who didn’t graduate HS probably can’t think for themselves and need you to do it for them. Great logic! Lets ask you a question: Why are you against school choice? (I’m assuming you are since you are lemming liberal)

    • CSears

      This makes sense and extra points for the 1984 reference.

  • roccolore

    Democrats are cowards who are afraid of free speech, debate, and dissent.

    • Edward

      We allow insults from outsiders here.

      • lspanker

        Not without a whole lot of whining…