A long-awaited report on free speech protections at the University of California, Berkeley, blames “hard to defend” conservative speakers for inciting left-wing students to violence.
A commission of Berkeley faculty, students formed in 2017 after violent and costly student protests called its commitment to free speech into question. Their monthslong study of the issue resulted in the conclusion that “ultra-conservative rhetoric” by the likes of Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter only exists to “advance a facile narrative that universities are not tolerant of conservative speech.”
“Contrary to a currently popular narrative, Berkeley remains a tolerant campus,” the report says, Politico reported Thursday. “Although those speakers had every right to speak and were entitled to protection, they did not need to be on campus to exercise the right of free speech. Indeed, at least some of the 2017 events at Berkeley can now be seen to be part of a coordinated campaign to organize appearances on American campuses likely to incite a violent reaction.”
The commission was chaired by Prudence Carter, dean of Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, and R. Jay Wallace, a professor of philosophy.
“Members are skeptical of these speakers’ commitment to anything other than the pursuit of wealth and fame through the instigation of anger, fear, and vengefulness in their hard-right constituency. Speech of this kind is hard to defend, especially in light of the acute distress it caused (and was intended to cause) to staff and students, many of whom felt threatened and targeted by the speakers and by the outside groups financing their appearances,” the report continued, Politico reported.
Mr. Yiannopoulos rejected the notion that he isn’t interested in spirited debate.
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“I always prefer to give my talk,” he told the website. “I care about my subjects. But it gets Berkeley off the hook, doesn’t it?”
• Douglas Ernst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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