Op-ed mischaracterizes student groups, breadth of Ben Shapiro’s opinions

letter to the editor
Willow Yang/File

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In an Oct. 17 op-ed, Olivia Wittels writes:

“(The Boalt Hall Law Students for Justice in Palestine) wrote an open letter to criticize the school’s decision to allow conservative pundit Ben Shapiro to speak on campus based purely on his views on the Middle East.”

Wittels’ claim contains several mischaracterizations that are worth remedying, briefly.

Seven other student organizations, including the Boalt Muslim Student Association and the Middle Eastern Law Students Association, cosigned the letter in question. Input from the latter two organizations was included in the final draft.

The signatories did not criticize “the school’s decision to allow” Shapiro to speak. The organizations took a strong position in favor of the First Amendment — arguing that even the most repugnant speakers should be allowed to speak on campus. Calls for criticism should be distinguished from calls for censorship.

It is true that the signatories drew attention to a number of Shapiro’s opinions. As stated in the letter, the pundit argues that “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage” and that a majority of Muslims are radicalized.

Shapiro’s bigoted sentiments, however, are not purely “views on the Middle East.” Wittels might be surprised to learn that Arabs and Muslims go about their lives in places outside of that region — including our law school.

Michael Youhana is a UC Berkeley law student.

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