In a move that baby boomers and Gen Xers across the nation applaud, UC Berkeley is returning to its free speech roots of the 1960s and allowing conservative speakers back on campus.
Carol Christ, UC Berkeley’s newly-appointed chancellor, defended her controversial shift to allow what some may perceive as provocative speakers to speak on campus, stating in a message to faculty and students, “The law is very clear: Public institutions like UC Berkeley must permit speakers invited in accordance with campus policies to speak, without discrimination in regard to point of view.”
She then announced both Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos were invited by student groups to speak on campus this fall. According to Chronicle.com, Steve Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter were invited to speak at the university’s “free speech week” September 24-27.
“It will be a free speech year,” Christ wrote. “If you choose to protest, do so peacefully. We will not tolerate violence, and we will hold anyone accountable who engages in it.”
Professor Mark Cohen and Student Body President Zaynab Abdulqadir-Morris, opponents of conservative viewpoints, took their outrage to Twitter. Zaynab Abdulqadir-Morris went so far as to declare that UC Berkeley has no obligation to the U.S. Constitution and must denounce “hate speech.”
Cohen contends the move will bring a hostile racial climate to a campus that’s already struggling with racism. He’s calling for a “massive and effective response to the alt-right invasion of @UCBerkeley,” an invasion he maintains is “welcomed” by the administration.
“As faculty I’m outraged,” the assistant professor of American and African studies tweeted. “Our campus has responded to the rise of NeoNazis by welcoming them to terrorize, harass and threaten our students. All so our naïve and useless administration can double down on the baby boomer free speech branding bullshit. @UCBerkeley should be ashamed.”
Zaynab Abdulqadir-Morris stated, “A valuable education would involve administrators modeling to us how to combat bigotry on campus.” She then goes on to tweet that these conservative speakers are “hateful nobodies” and “proponents of ethnic cleansing.”
Christ asserted that free speech was the legacy of Berkeley and now the university has the opportunity to once again be a collective power and shape the free speech narrative. Already on the roster to kick off the chancellor’s “free speech year” is a student panel, a faculty panel and several book talks. Additionally, Bridge USA and the Center for New Media will hold a full day conference on October 5. There is also a series centering on a moderated discussion between people of sharply divergent viewpoints.
“We all desire safe space where we can be ourselves and find support for our identities,” Christ acknowledged. “You have the right at Berkeley to expect the university to keep you physically safe. But we would be providing students with a less valuable education, preparing them less well for the world after graduation, if we tried to shelter them from ideas that many find wrong, even dangerous. We must show that we can choose what to listen to, that we can cultivate our own arguments and that we can develop inner resilience, which is the surest form of safe space. These are not easy tasks, and we will offer support services for those who desire them.”
The Chancellor’s words, however, are of no comfort to the rebellious left who have grown accustom to shutting out and shouting down all views they deem as politically incorrect. Judging by some of the tweets sent by Professor Cohen (Twitter handle MMC@LilBillHaywood), violence is not off the table.
How can this generation of college students grow to be mature and responsible adults who possess the ability to sift through opposing views of an argument and come to their own conclusions when the educators they should be able to look to for guidance and an unbiased perspective are like Professor Mark Cohen?