Cal State Fullerton issued an official statement Tuesday on the provocative move by the CSUF College Republicans club to try to host a Milo Yiannopoulos appearance on campus Oct. 31.
“Mr. Yiannopoulos is a controversial figure, but the university administration does not play a role in determining which speakers student groups may invite to campus,” the statement by Chief Communications Officer Jeffrey Cook read. “Furthermore, while many at the university and in the broader community may find Mr. Yiannopoulos’ remarks distasteful, if not wholly objectionable, the law is clear: what some consider hateful speech is, in fact, protected speech.”
The statement articulated the details of the university’s role in the event’s coordination.
“The university is engaged in appropriate planning to ensure the safety of our community,” Cook’s statement read. “While we will defend the right of all points of view to be expressed on campus, we will not tolerate violence or the threat of violence in our learning environment.”
The ASI Board of Directors had one hour to appease demonstrators before CSUF President Mildred García arrived to speak at their Tuesday meeting amid a backdrop of protesters’ signs directly addressing her.
As per usual, the meeting opened with public comment. Liz Sanchez of Students for Quality Education stepped up to the microphone.
Calling out the board directly for its silence on Yiannopoulos’ scheduled CSUF appearance while taking sides on other issues like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Sanchez gave the board two options.
“Join us … or be neutral and part of the oppression,” Sanchez said.
The board sat rigid as students bearing signs reading “ASI stop Milo” and “Mildred protect your students #noMilo” formed a wall at the foremost section of the Titan Student Union conference room and veered the board meeting into rally territory.
The student protesters watched silently as the board lent compliments to García once she arrived at the meeting with Cook, the Office of the President’s Deputy Chief of Staff Danielle García, Executive Communications Director Matt Olson, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Tonantzin Oseguera and Student Life and Leadership director Vincent Vigil.
ASI Board member Jason Bonney from the College of Health and Human Development lauded García’s continuing of initiatives on diversity and inclusivity.
“Those are huge feats to actually achieve,” Bonney said regarding the fact that Cal State Fullerton is the leading school in graduating Hispanics.
Not citing any club in particular, Bonney also brought up the issue of third-party funding for on-campus organizations, which he said is “polarizing our campus.”
García said that unless the organization is funding activities through illegal means, “we cannot stop them from receiving funds on their part. We just can’t.”
The student protesters left the meeting as soon as García did.
“(García) has once again doubled down on free speech. That is the official university stance, if it’s coming from her,” said SQE member Rebecca Hesgard. “Protecting free speech is not the revolutionary idea that she likes to frame it as. It was never at risk.”
Hesgard said García’s “neutrality” in the situation makes the university “complicit” in the “oppression” students are facing.
“There is no neutral ground in this type of situation,” Hesgard said.
García addressed this in her earlier remarks.
“It is my responsibility to listen, to not agree, to have alternate views, to have alternate events that demonstrate our fundamental values of Cal State Fullerton,” García said to the board. “I say that as individuals around this institution and other places wonder why we are allowing a controversial speaker to come.”
Hesgard said that while she didn’t necessarily expect García to “take a sign and join in,” she at least expected recognition of their demonstration.
“It looks like a majority of her team was in there so they should have acknowledged some of the messages,” Hesgard said.