The bulk of Wednesday’s ASUC Senate meeting was devoted to negotiations surrounding the upcoming “Free Speech Week” at UC Berkeley, culminating in the passage of a resolution condemning the event.
Free Speech Week, a joint effort between conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos and campus publication the Berkeley Patriot, will take place on campus from Sept. 24-27 and will feature a variety of conservative speakers, including Yiannopoulos and David Horowitz.
After last week’s contention over conservative author Ben Shapiro’s presence on campus, the ASUC Senate echoed many of the same misgivings shared by students and faculty as the event looms near in what Chancellor Carol Christ has deemed a “free speech year.”
Senate Resolution 13, entitled “Condemning ‘Free Speech Week’ and Demanding the UC Berkeley Administration Prioritize Student Safety and Academics,” passed by a 19-1 margin amid mounting concerns among senators that the event will not only disrupt classes but also imperil the welfare and safety of students. The bill emphasized the continued importance of ensuring the physical, mental and emotional well-being of students during the upcoming week, and it also criticized the campus’s “extenuating security measures,” which would affect students’ access to campus facilities.
“As a member of (the Compliance and Enterprise Risk Committee) and the subcommittee on student safety, I see more than most on what administration is trying to do,” said ASUC Senator Alexander Wilfert, co-author of the bill. “What’s happening right now is that they’re in the dark and everyone wants answers. … It’s a matter of student safety.”
Wilfert went on to say that he believed the campus had not taken enough action in protecting the student body in light of these events, adding that he hoped the administration would consider student voices on future contentious campus issues.
Although the bill ultimately passed by a near-unanimous margin, there was some dissent among senators who disagreed with the particular language of the text, most notably in its condemnation of specific organizations such as Antifa with “past or potential violence.” Senator Juniperangelica Cordova-Goff said she feared that identifying these external organizations by name would only reinforce the conflation of particular ideologies or political beliefs with patterns of violence.
“Generalizations are really dangerous,” Cordova-Goff said at the meeting. “I don’t want a bill that once again perpetuates the idea that everyone is violent that is anti-fascist.”
The clause, which was later amended to omit such naming, also originally included Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group.
“We represent the voices of the 35,000 students on campus,” said ASUC Senator Rizza Estacio. “And I know there are mixed feelings about … Antifa, and what they do and their actions here on campus.”
The ASUC Senate will reconvene Sept. 27, the last day of Free Speech Week.