UPDATE 2:24 p.m.: The Cal Poly Democrats issued a statement regarding the Cal Poly College Republicans’s panel featuring Milo Yiannopoulos.
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#f5f5f5″ text=”#000000″ align=”left” size=”1″ quote=”The Cal Poly Democrats planned to … participate in a Fake News Panel organized by a number of campus entities, including the College Republicans, in February, where we intended to provide students and community members with a political dialogue during a divisive political period. We were disappointed to have to pull out of the event upon learning that the speaker invited by the College Republicans had made incredibly racist remarks about African Americans and Muslims. As we said in our statement where we left the event, it is important to discuss disagreements; however, there are views so odious that they do not deserve a seat at the discussion table.
The upcoming Fake News Panel was organized solely by the College Republicans.
By inviting Milo Yiannopoulos to our campus again, the College Republicans are doubling down on inviting unreliable, alt-right speakers who aim to provoke rather than persuade. Milo Yiannopoulos is known for making hateful comments about a variety of underrepresented groups and the College Republicans are associating themselves with his beliefs.
We understand that it is important to have political discussions with people with whom you disagree; however, as long as the College Republicans continue to bring this type of hateful speaker to campus, it shows that they are unwilling to engage in real political dialogue.” cite=”Cal Poly Democrats” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]
After controversy and the cancelation of the proposed Fake News Panel in February, the Cal Poly College Republicans are putting on their own fake news panel, bringing back widely controversial panelist Milo Yiannopoulos.
Yiannopoulos will sit alongside panelists Austen Fletcher and U.K. YouTuber Sargon of Akkad, also known as Carl Benjamin. College Republicans also reached out to YouTuber Blaire White, but she has not been confirmed.
The original Fake News Panel was scheduled for Feb. 13, titled “Fake News: What is it and Who Decides?” It was put on by Associated Students, Inc., Cal Poly Democrats, Cal Poly College Republicans, the League of Women Voters, the College of Liberal Arts and the Journalism Department.
Cal Poly Democrats withdrew from the February panel after the Cal Poly College Republicans chose Bill Whittle as their panelist. Whittle then withdrew due to unforeseen circumstances. The Cal Poly College Republicans then said they had secured Yiannopoulos as a replacement panelist for Whittle. The remaining co-sponsors immediately withdrew from the panel and it was canceled.
The new panel is scheduled for Thursday, April 26 at 7 p.m. in Mott Athletic Center. According to College Republicans President Katherine Rueckert, the new panel will be different.
“We’re just doing a distinction because that one fell through, we wanted to do one of our own, just to show we’re still willing to do it,” Rueckert said. “It’s unfortunate we couldn’t do it as a unit, so we thought, ‘Okay well we loved the idea.’ We were the last people standing, we were still willing to make the Fake News Panel happen, even though people didn’t appreciate our speaker, who’s now still coming back.”
University spokesperson Matt Lazier made it clear this panel is being organized by the club and not the university.
“The university understands that the participants in the panel discussion are personalities that some members of our campus community may find offensive. However, as a public university, Cal Poly is required to uphold free speech rights and provide an open forum for a variety of opinions, thoughts and ideas — even those that may be distasteful or offensive,” Lazier wrote in an email to Mustang News.
Lazier continued that Cal Poly cannot impede free speech on its campus.
“Censoring language and viewpoints violates First Amendment rights and does not represent what Cal Poly stands for as a university. Rather, free speech and the open exchange of ideas and opinions — even those that conflict with our own — is an important part of critical thinking and student growth,” Lazier wrote.
University officials are discussing measures that will be taken in order to maintain a safe and secure campus environment while allowing the club to proceed with its event.
Despite many opposing opinions to Yiannopoulos’s attendance on campus, Rueckert said the club chose Yiannopoulos because they reached out to a number of potential panelists and he was very willing to come to campus.
“Milo Yiannopoulos was the one, who on extremely short notice said, ‘Sure I’ll be there,’ and that kind of spoke volumes to me as the type of person he is,” Rueckert said. “You can say what you want about what he thinks, but the type of person he is, once you get past the policies and once you get past the politics, he’s someone who’s willing to do this for college students.”
Rueckert said the College Republicans did not want to pass up the opportunity of having Yiannopoulos come to campus.
“He’s a powerhouse on college campuses … powerhouse whether positive or negative differs between people, but he’s a huge name,” Rueckert said.
Rueckert added that though all the panelists are conservatives, they each bring different ideas to the table.
“People aren’t going to like it that it’s right-leaning, but honestly the last panel was extremely left-leaning, all of those panelists down the board were left, except for Bill Whittle, he was the only right-leaning individual,” Rueckert said.