The University of Berkeley, California community is seething with tension.
Organizers of a four-day parade of right-wing bigwigs on Thursday released the lineup of speakers for Free Speech Week, just hours before Ben Shapiro makes a closely-watched appearance on campus.
From Sept. 24 to 27, Free Speech Week will feature about two dozen people, including provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, conservative commentator Ann Coulter, “alt-right” social media star Mike Cernovich, and former Google engineer James Damore, who was fired after penning a memo that criticized the tech giant’s diversity policy, according to the SF Gate.
The first day has been dubbed “Feminism Awareness Day,” the second will be called “Zuck 2020,” the third “Islamic Peace and Tolerance Day” and the fourth “Mario Savio is Dead,” the SF Gate reported. Yiannopoulos is expected to speak on all four days.
Although UC Berkeley is referred to as the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, the campus community is furious about the upcoming events. As of Thursday, a letter calling for a boycott of classes and other activities during Free Speech Week had garnered signatures from 132 faculty members from several departments, the Daily Californian reported.
“As concerned faculty members, we cannot remain silent while students, staff, colleagues, and fellow community members are threatened,” says the letter, which was penned by seven faculty members, including those who chair the Gender and Women’s Studies, African American Studies and Ethnic Studies departments.
The letter decries asking “students and staff to choose between risking their physical and mental safety” by attending classes amid “harassment, intimidation, violence, and militarized policing.”
It also expressed concern that threats are not only physical, and people who don’t agree with the way of thinking of Free Speech Week invitees might be exposed to online threats.
Acknowledging that UC Berkeley must provide a safe space for differing ideas and perspectives, “there are forms of speech that are not protected under the First Amendment,” the letter said.
It continued: “Milo, Coulter and Bannon do not come to educate; they and their followers come to humiliate and incite. If the administration insists upon allowing the Alt-Right to occupy the center of our campus for four days … then faculty cannot teach, staff cannot work and students cannot learn.”
The faculty members stressed that they will not provide people associated with the “alt-right” the attention they crave and a boycott is the “only responsible course of action.” The letter says classes should be canceled so students can stay home, and buildings and departments should be closed so staff can ensure their own safety. Further, it asks other faculty members to “not penalize” scared UC Berkeley students who are miss classes.
“As faculty, we reject both the administration’s false rhetoric of false equivalency that all speech – including ‘hate speech’ – merits value and respect and also the impulse to see direct confrontation as the only strategy of resistance,” they concluded.
For his part, UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof told NBC Bay Area that there is no mistaking the university's legal responsibility.
He wrote in an email: "The protections for free speech contained in the first amendment as interpreted by subsequent case law oblige us to allow any speaker who has been invited in accordance with our policies to speak without discrimination in regard to content. It is up to faculty to decide how they plan to cover the curriculum for their classes over the course of a semester."
Here is the full lineup for Free Speech Week:
Sunday, Sept. 24: “Feminism Awareness Day”
- Miss Elaine
- Lucian Wintrich
- Lisa DePasquale
- Chadwick Moore
- Milo Yiannopoulos
Monday, Sept. 25: “Zuck 2020”
- Heather Mac Donald
- Monica Crowley
- Jordan Peterson
- James Damore
Tuesday, Sept. 26: “Islamic Peace and Tolerance Day”
- Michael Malice
- Raheem Kassam
- Katie Hopkins
- Erik Prince
- Pamela Geller
- David Horowitz
- Milo Yiannopoulos
Wednesday, Sept, 27: “Mario Savio is Dead”
- Mike Cernovich
- Charles Murray
- Ariana Rowlands
- Stelion Onufrei
- Alex Marlow
- Milo Yiannopoulos
- Steve Bannon
- Ann Coulter