ASUC invites Bill Maher to participate in public forum

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The ASUC extended an invitation to comedian Bill Maher on Monday for him to participate in an open panel discussion on campus in light of the controversy surrounding his selection as the fall commencement speaker.

After the campus announced that Maher would be the keynote speaker, ASUC Senator Marium Navid authored a Change.org petition in October asking campus administrators to rescind the decision. The petition has garnered almost 6,000 signatures as of Tuesday evening.

According to the letter penned to Maher, the open panel will consist of three to five participants and will take place in Wheeler Auditorium either before or after the Dec. 20 commencement ceremony, should Maher accept the invitation.

“The open panel is meant to be a space where we can embody the true essence of freedom of speech through constructive dialogue alongside students, professors, and other members of our community,” the invitation read.

ASUC officials are currently negotiating with Maher’s team to get him to agree to participate in the forum, according to ASUC Senator Madison Gordon.

In the invitation, UC Berkeley public policy professor Robert Reich, a former U.S. secretary of labor, was originally slated as the moderator of the panel, but due to some scheduling complications, a new moderator will be chosen.

The Californians, the student group that nominated Maher, voted to rescind the invitation in response to student protest. Despite this, campus administration stood by the nomination, and Maher accepted.

At a meeting of the ASUC External and University Affairs Committee last week, senators unanimously passed Senate Bill 34, which addressed Maher’s selection and its effect on campus climate. The bill further discussed ways to improve the selection process for commencement speakers in the future in order to include and legitimize student voices.

The bill states that campus officials suggested that the ASUC extend this invitation during a public senate meeting. The email invitation was sent by Dan Mogulof, assistant vice chancellor of executive communications, on behalf of the ASUC.

Michelle Pitcher covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @michellepitcher.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article stated that Robert Reich is a former U.S. secretary of state. In fact, he is a former U.S. secretary of labor.