College campuses should be an open forum to all viewpoints

First Amendment rights should be respected for all regardless of where a speaker falls on the political spectrum

When conservative commentators arrive to speak at college campuses in the U.S., they may be met with violent protestors or agitators. While people have a right to protest, they must do so in a way that does not disrupt the rights of others. It is important that universities like ASU protect free speech, even if people don't like what the speaker has to say.

On Feb. 1, 2017, Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley for an event hosted by the university's College Republicans chapter. My friend who attends UC Berkeley gave me a glimpse of what was happening. She told me that the event was cancelled due to a fire and protests erupting in front of the building where Yiannopoulos was meant to speak.

Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw exactly what my friend was talking about. News reports showed people being punched and one girl getting pepper sprayed on camera

This type of double standard that conservatives face on college campuses is a serious problem — it is unfair and an intrusion of free speech. Liberal speakers seldom deal with any controversy when they are invited to speak at universities. Unfortunately, the problem is not restricted to just Yiannopoulos, other commentators such as Ben Shapiro have had similar instances dealing with agitators while giving a talk.

When Shapiro was invited to give a talk at California State University in Los Angeles, he said, “Folks, if you are watching on the livestream, the waves of students you see entering right now are being sneaked in – because in America in 2016, you have to use the back door if you want to participate in free speech, you get to block the front if you are a member of the left.” 

Every opinion has the right to be heard. Just because one does not like whoever is coming to talk to a group of students at a university or a lecture room of any sorts does not mean that riots have to ensue. Blocking the entrance does not do anything other take away someone else’s right to learn and discuss whatever political issues they want to hear about.

When the students of UC Berkeley or other colleges do this to speakers they disagree with, they are suppressing freedom of speech and deserve to be call out for it. Jonathan Pie, a political satirist who despises President Donald Trump said that these kinds of instances give people such as Trump and Yiannopoulos “the moral high ground.” 

He also said, “When Trump rightly condemns this violence and calls out Berkeley Uni for suppressing freedom of speech – he’s not wrong,” and he followed with “How dare these people put me in a position where I’m agreeing with that orange sack of minge.” 

Even the American Civil Liberties Union went on to support Yiannopoulos, as they will defend any one’s right to free speech.

There are many issues on which I disagree with Yiannopoulos and Shapiro. Yiannopoulos, for instance, once wrote in a Breitbart article, “Muslims, who, as we know, get a bit bomby in the presence of gays, a bit rapey in the presence of women who wear skirts shorter than their ankles.”

 What he said is not simply a defiance of political correctness. He is demonizing an entire group of people as “rapists” and “terrorists.” If someone is angry and offended when they read that, they are completely justified in being angry or offended. Yet, I would still love to hear Yiannopoulos or any other speaker, whether it be left-wing or right-wing, come to speak at ASU.

“Turning Point is hoping to bring Julie Borowski later this semester, (and) perhaps our founder Charlie Kirk.” Kaitlyn Wender, the Turning Point USA chapter president at ASU, said. “And then I know we’ve talked with College Republicans about co-hosting Joe Walsh sometime maybe within the next year.” 

Wender said that students have the right to protest, but she would not like to see them be as aggressive as those at Berkeley.

The students who protest events are also exercising their freedom of speech and have a right to do that. What they do not have the right to do is block entrances, pull fake fire alarms, cause riots or pepper spray people. 

If these right-wing speakers ever come to ASU, they should be listened to by the people who disagree with them the most, and both parties should try to engage in a political discussion. 

One productive way to handle the situation of having a speaker you disagree with come to your campus is to go to their lecture and and ask them questions after the talk during the Q&A session, as that would be the perfect way to showcase your views while not disrupting the rights of others.

If people want to protest, they have that right – but they should not do it so violently as to shut down what freedom of speech is supposed to stand for. 


Reach the reporter at vpappuse@asu.edu or follow @vpappuse on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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