After violent protests raised concerns of student safety, administrators at UC Berkeley canceled a planned event featuring controversial far-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos last Wednesday. “150 masked agitators” interrupted an otherwise peaceful protest, causing $100,000 of damage to the university’s campus. We commend UC Berkeley administrators for effectively and efficiently handling this situation.
While the incident has been framed as a battle over free speech on UC Berkeley’s liberal campus, it is important to distinguish intellectual diversity from hate speech on college campuses. It is imperative that college students gain a wide range of perspectives and evidence-based ideas to continue challenging their own opinions and worldviews, but universities should foster this intellectual growth by inviting principled conservatives to provide educational experiences for their students—not polemicists such as Yiannopoulos who hold little substance behind their contrarian views.
Yiannopoulos does not deserve to be granted the platform of a university campus to espouse his hateful beliefs. Institutions of higher education pride themselves on generating new knowledge and challenging old beliefs for the purposes of advancing our understanding of the world. Furthermore, these institutions are built on the principle of evidence-based research. In contrast, Yiannopoulos appears to challenge others’ beliefs simply for the sake of being a contrarian, and he does so with little tenability for his claims. Yiannopoulos is little more than a racist, sexist, and anti-semite who encourages hate and fear rather than intellectual thought.
Yiannopoulos has proven multiple times that he is a significant threat to specific students. This alone should be more than enough for administrators to bar him from campuses in the first place.
Members of Harvard should think twice before inviting speakers such as Yiannopoulos to our campus. Granting these figures a platform at our universities only serves to further legitimize their untenable, hateful claims and poses a threat to fellow classmates. Milo Yiannopoulos and other members of the alt-right have no place on college campuses. Harvard College’s mission statement “seeks to identify and to remove restraints on students’ full participation”; the identification and prevention of hate speech is critical in this mission.