Students showed opposition to conservative activist Milo Yiannopoulos’ upcoming visit to Cal Poly on Jan. 31 as part of his “Dangerous Faggot” tour of American college campuses.
Yiannopoulos is a British editor and writer for Breitbart News as well as a voice for the so-called “alt-right” movement. He appeared as a guest speaker on television news and commonly questions liberal and progressive thinking while also being an openly gay man.
In response to the news of Yiannopoulos’ visit, The Cal Poly Queer Student Union (QSU) posted to Facebook on Nov. 29, encouraging students to “flood President Armstrong’s inbox” with a pre-formatted email:
“I urge you to reconsider hosting Mr. Yiannopoulos’ ‘Dangerous Faggot’ tour at Cal Poly on January 31st. He has been quoted as saying lesbians ‘don’t exist,’ that Judeo-Christian societies are ‘better’ than other societies, and is a huge critic of feminism, the overweight, liberals, etc. Titles of his articles on Breitbart include: ‘Gay rights have made us dumber, it’s time to get back in the closet,’ ‘Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy,’ ‘Science proves it: Fat shaming works,’ ‘There’s no hiring bias against women in tech, they just suck at interviews.’
“I am well aware of his first amendment right to say whatever he pleases, but you can be rest assured that peaceful protestors will be present both outside the event as well as inside the venue. They have already been instructed on how to receive tickets and to go incognito into the event to disrupt from the inside and to make the speaker ‘unwelcome.’ I am not claiming responsibility for this, simply informing you of the reality of the situation.
“I thank you for your consideration and urge you again to rethink hosting Mr. Yiannopoulos. The title of his tour including the word ‘dangerous’ is not for show.
“Waiting for your action,
“<Add your name>”
Matt Lazier, director of media relations for Cal Poly, confirmed that the President’s Office is receiving messages on the subject but has not kept count of the number of emails received. Lazier said the President’s Office is promptly responding to all emails with the
“Cal Poly’s campus is an open environment where opinions, ideas and thoughts are freely shared — even those that some may find distasteful and offensive. Censoring viewpoints that we don’t agree with violates free speech and does not represent what we stand 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 student growth and preparation for success in today’s global marketplace.”
While QSU president Matt Klepfer supports free speech, he wants to know the university’s distinction between free speech and hate speech.
“In thinking about how free speech is obviously free speech and we need to protect that, but where is the line between hate speech, right?” political science junior Klepfer said. “We need to talk about when does that speech incite violence against communities on our campus and in the country and where is that boundary?”
This is why Klepfer suggests a panel discussion, rather than having Yiannopoulos come as an individual speaker; it will
provide a dialogue.
“I think that’s where a lot of our effort should be,” Klepfer said. “And I hope that the [Cal Poly] Republicans would be interested in having a panel conversation because I think their fear is that if there is someone smart who is challenging Milo’s beliefs, I bet Milo would be terrified of that panel discussion.”
Additionally, Cal Poly alumus Heidi Petersen created a petition to Armstrong to get Yiannopoulos to participate in a panel discussion. As of the morning of Dec. 3, the petition has 400 supporters. Petersen wrote that “Requiring the format to be changed to a panel discussion would not limit any right to free speech and would promote the open exchange of ideas and opinions.”
On Dec. 3, Breitbart News published a story called “Cal Poly Progressives attempt to sabotage Milo event with format change,” in which Yiannopoulos provided a response. When asked if he thought Cal Poly would be able to “Shut him up,” Yiannopoulos said, “Fat chance.”
The Cal Poly Republicans are sponsoring his talk. Mustang News was unable to reach the Cal Poly Republicans for a comment.