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ASUC Senate discusses free speech with upcoming right-wing speakers events

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AUGUST 31, 2017

At its regular Wednesday meeting, the ASUC Senate discussed the issue of free speech at UC Berkeley in light of several upcoming on-campus events featuring right-wing speakers organized by the Berkeley College Republicans.

From the start of the meeting, criticism was voiced about the way Chancellor Carol Christ is handling controversies related to free speech on campus. J.J. Narayan, a recent transfer student, spoke to the senate in detail about why allowing speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on campus could be problematic. Narayan displayed a transcript on the senate chambers’ projector of Yiannopoulos’ 2016 speech at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, during which Yiannopoulos openly ridiculed a transgender student.

“Imagine if this happens at our campus,” Narayan said during the meeting. “Another student is attacked.”

Mark Mone, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, was also subject to criticism at the meeting because of his response in the aftermath of this incident. In a campuswide email, Mone condemned Yiannopoulos’ speech but supported students’ decision to invite a wide array of speakers on campus. Using the context of Yiannopoulos’ speech, Narayan expressed fear about a potential similar occurrence at UC Berkeley, stating that it is important for the student body to not be afraid to stand up to campus administration.

“If we allow this to go forward, all of us are complicit in this,” Narayan said during the meeting. “(Pass a) resolution telling the administration officially … we as a student body do not agree with this decision.”

Senator Juniperangelica Cordova expressed concern about the campus’s protection of its student population.

“(The) administration is not recognizing the dangers (it is) putting us in,” Cordova said during the meeting. “When I think of violence, it means people who are trying to hurt me and my people.”

A bill opposing hate speech on campus was originally on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting but was later removed because of legal concerns. ASUC senators Nuha Khalfay and Rizza Estacio, the primary sponsors of the bill, referenced the fact that BCR sued UC Berkeley administrators in April for allegedly violating the organization’s First Amendment rights. Taking into consideration the precedent BCR set, Khalfay and Estacio said they want to ensure that there are no legal loopholes in the bill when it is finally discussed in the senate. The office of the ASUC Chief Legal Officer is assessing the legality of the bill, and a new version will be presented to the senate next week.

Also at the meeting, the senate passed Resolution 2, or “Correcting and Curing Improper Actions of the 2016/2017 Senate,” which dissolved the chief accountability officer position and replaced it with chief personnel officer, effective immediately.

Azwar Shakeel is the lead student government reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @azwarshakeel12.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2017