The founder of the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust is scheduled to speak in the Titan Student Unionâ€™s Alvarado AB at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 6.
Bradley Smith, whose organization contends that the Holocaust did not occur, will talk about what he calls forbidden topics within student journalism.
Smith has a history of causing controversy on university campuses across the United States. In February of this year, the University of Wisconsin-Madisonâ€™s student newspaper was met with strong opposition when they ran an online advertisement purchased by Smith.
â€œSome members of Madisonâ€™s Jewish community, and others, are outraged that the Herald would give this infamous denier a platform to spew his veiled anti-Semitism,â€ wrote Nick Penzenstadler, the UW paperâ€™s publisher, in an article entitled, “Why The Badger Herald ran that Holocaust denier’s ad.”
A self-proclaimed â€œHolocaust revisionist,â€ Smith argues the Nazi gas chambers did not exist and spoke at the 2006 Holocaust conference hosted by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, Iran.
â€œWell, I donâ€™t have an ideology,â€ Smith said. â€œEssentially, Iâ€™m encouraging a free exchange of ideas about a taboo question.â€
CSUFâ€™s Hillel club adviser Mark Filowitz commented on Smithâ€™s coming to campus.
â€œI am a firm believer in free speech,â€ Filowitz said, â€œbut I strongly object to deceptive practices that dupe students into hearing a single point of view, as opposed to healthy academic debate, where all sides of an issue is examined.â€
Filowitz, who is the associate dean of the College of Natural Science and Mathematics, further stated his opinion of Smithâ€™s beliefs.
â€œOn the level of an individual, and as the son of Holocaust survivors, I am thoroughly disgusted that people like Bradley Smith abuse our hard-fought freedoms to deceptively spread their vile venom among the impressionable, who may not know better despite all of the hard evidence of history,â€ he said.
Smith, who currently resides in Mexico, contacted Cal State Fullertonâ€™s University Conference Center a week ago about renting a room in the TSU to discuss free speech.
Kurt Borsting, the director of the TSU, was involved in the reviewing process of Smithâ€™s contract.
â€œA university is a marketplace of ideas,â€ Borsting said. â€œEven when those ideas may be offensive.â€
While most students hear controversial speakers in the Quad and on Titan Walk, Borsting said that the reason Smith is holding his discussion in the TSU is because he paid a fee and made a reservation request in advance.
Borsting said he was familiar with Smithâ€™s background before granting his request. To reject Smithâ€™s speaking engagement would infringe on his First Amendment rights, he said.
Smith is allowed to rent the facility as a private individual who is exercising his First Amendment rights, Borsting said.
Associated Students Incorporated president Juliana Santos said that ASI had â€œno legal grounds to deny him to speak in the TSU.â€
â€œBradley Smith contacted the university conference center … (which) didnâ€™t know his true intentions,â€ Santos said. â€œHis title seemed pretty benign.â€
Santos recalls only one group denied access to the TSU this year, a nudist group that was denied due to indecent exposure being against the law, she said.
Santos said ASI is not sponsoring Smithâ€™s event.
The TSUâ€™s policy regarding outside groups states that they allow, â€œall other off-campus groups and individuals whose events are consistent with the with the mission and purpose of the Universityâ€ to use the facility as a forum.
The universityâ€™s mission statement has among its goals to, â€œaffirm the universityâ€™s commitment to freedom of thought, inquiry and speech.â€
â€œI do think that the university should always allow free speech on Titan Way or the Quad,â€ Filowitz said. â€œBut when a University facility is used, it implies some sort of endorsement of the views presented. Therefore, I would urge some consideration of procedures by which our facilities are used on campus.â€
CSUF’s Hillel club founder Jeffrey Reinstein, 24, disagrees with Smith’s stance on the Holocaust.
“To deny the Holocaust in the year 2010 is like to deny that Cal State Fullerton needs more parking, teachers and more funding,” Reinstein said. “Although I support free speech and the First Amendment in its entirety, I sincerely hope that no individual gives this man a proper audience. Remnants of the world’s prejudice past should be just that â€“ the past.”