Racial tension is already running high at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. But the College Republicans have decided to add fuel to the fire by inviting — and not canceling the appearance of — Milo Yiannopoulos.
Yiannopoulos, the "free-speech fundamentalist" and attention seeker who likes to post anti-Muslim statements on Instagram and thinks "feminism is cancer," is coming to campus Thursday night. He'll be speaking on a panel about fake news. When he gave his "dead babies" speech last year, the university spent more than $55,000 to provide security for the event, including 109 police officers. This year, the university police chief said spending may top $100,000.
The school suspended all of its fraternities and sororities through the spring quarter when a student wore blackface to a party. White supremacist flyers and hateful messages were found on campus recently. But this year's events just barely scratch the surface; the university newspaper Mustang News even made a timeline of racist and anti-immigrant incidents at Cal Poly over the years.
It's unsurprising that many students think the university could spend its money in a different way. "Milo being on campus today is a representation of the racist culture thriving and real at Cal Poly," Gabriela Peralta, a fourth-year psychology major who is part of a student group that organizes events to change the racial climate on campus, told Refinery29. "The school doesn’t hesitate to spend $55,000 on security for a man who hates people of color and spews nothing but hate. However, the administration does nothing to match the same amount of money for cultural organizations and clubs who need support."
Matt Lazier, the school's media relations director, stressed that the event is being held by the Cal Poly Republicans, not the university itself. He said that while some may find Yiannopoulos offensive, 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." He added that censoring language and viewpoints violates the first amendment and that "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."
This doesn't explain what, specifically, is educational or contributes to growth about a provocateur like Yiannopoulos, who posted on Instagram that he was preparing for his visit to campus by getting the darkest spray tan possible "in honor of Cal Poly's HORRIFIC recent blackface incident." It also doesn't explain why the College Republicans couldn't have chosen a speaker with more educational value who didn't once condone pedophilia.
Besides, free speech has consequences, like the editors of the San Luis Obispo Tribune pointed out in a letter to the Cal Poly Republicans on Tuesday. "Just ask the student who appeared in blackface," the letter read.
"College Republicans, are you willing to take responsibility for the consequences of Milo’s visit, including the possibility of violence, further damage to the university’s reputation, and sticking taxpayers with a hefty bill for security?" the editors wrote.
We've reached out to the Cal Poly Republicans and will update this story when we hear back.
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