Expecting useful dialogue from Coulter is futile

CAMPUS AFFAIRS: Haven’t we learned from 2017?

Illustration of Ann Coulter and police
Emily Bi/Senior Staff

Get ready, folks: She’s finally coming.

Berkeley College Republicans, or BCR, announced that conservative speaker Ann Coulter is once again coming to campus — this time, to give a lecture on immigration policy. Coulter’s lecture comes two and a half years after her controversial scheduled appearance on campus was rescheduled — and later canceled — because of safety concerns.

Aside from the fact that there are many more qualified authorities on immigration beyond Coulter, it’s disappointing that BCR knowingly invited a self-proclaimed “right-wing polemicist” to speak on campus again, given how the situation unfolded during BridgeUSA’s attempt back in 2017. The ideas she espouses and the vitriol she defends only agitate and unnerve communities that are already on edge, thanks to regressive immigration efforts by the current administration.

In theory, interacting with speakers who have differing views is a healthy way to encourage useful political discourse. But the fact of the matter is, Ann Coulter is absolutely not the person to bring in for productive dialogue, and the event’s current structure does not give space for audience members to engage with Coulter. The event’s public webpage doesn’t list any time for a Q&A, nor is the event itself a panel; so how is this event supposed to be facilitating dialogue without the act of opening space for, well, dialogue?

On top of that, the last time Coulter was supposed to come to campus, she threw a Twitter tantrum over her event being rescheduled to Reading, Review and Recitation week, claiming that the campus was trying to minimize the number of attendees at her talk. A public figure who truly intended to engage in meaningful dialogue wouldn’t lambast campus for a minor scheduling change. What exactly is her presence supposed to achieve this time?

When a person as inflammatory as Coulter comes to campus, of course there’s going to be some kind of backlash — typically in the form of a protest — necessitating additional security on campus. And this isn’t new information: Whether it was Milo Yiannopoulos, Ben Shapiro or Ann Coulter, people whose lives are threatened by these speakers’ ideas rightfully feel the need to protest.

As a precaution, campus will likely need to bring in a security detail, as evidenced by how campus reacted to various past free speech-related events. And while it’s much appreciated that campus administrators take threats of violence seriously, seeing armed police officers and a long line of barricades on campus contributes to an inordinate amount of stress among the student body.

To those who might protest Coulter’s lecture, by all means voice your opinion — but do keep in mind that overtly violent protests unfairly disrupt classrooms and student health. Professors, please consider allowing your students to avoid campus on the day of Coulter’s appearance, as any ensuing protests might be upsetting for many.

There are better ways to encourage meaningful dialogue about contentious issues in this country. It’s disappointing that BCR chose to invite a well-known instigator to campus; here’s to hoping Sproul Plaza stays intact.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2019 opinion editor, Revati Thatte.