Op-Ed: Faculty concerned that Yiannopoulos’ ‘Troll Academy’ will disrupt CSUF students

In Editorials, Opinion
(Katie Albertson / Daily Titan)

Provost Anil Puri wrote to faculty Oct. 9 about Milo Yiannopoulos’ “Troll Academy” scheduled for Oct. 31. Puri stated, “No classes or classroom activity will be affected on that day.”

Unfortunately, this is not true. At his recent speeches on campuses across California, Yiannopoulos has repeatedly incited violence. He has encouraged his followers to reveal the names of undocumented students, gender-transitioning students and other vulnerable populations. His event at Cal State Fullerton is advertised with the slogan, “Trigger or Treat.” This is an attempt to intimidate using outdated, obnoxious, hateful and disproved ideas. The Humanities and Social Sciences Inter-Club Council and two students have already been ridiculed on Yiannopoulos’ Facebook page. Muslim, feminist, undocumented, trans and other vulnerable students have told some of us that they do not feel safe attending class that day, so many of us have planned online activities that these threatened students can complete in lieu of classes.

Because of concerns about safety, the CSUF Children’s Center will close at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 31 instead of its usual 7 p.m. This will affect the classes of many students and faculty who rely on the Children’s Center for child care. The Titan Student Union is also closing its food court that afternoon and evening, something that will affect students who rely on the food court to eat. We appreciate these steps for safety, and we see that they indicate that classes and classroom activities will be disrupted.

It would be useful to know how much CSUF or other groups are spending on additional police presence and safety measures. Given our tight budgets, what educational activities will suffer as a result of keeping the campus and community safe during the “Troll Academy?” The administration has not yet revealed how much “Troll Academy” will cost CSUF, but transparency is necessary for a “marketplace of ideas” to function.

Puri wrote that “the First Amendment compels us to allow student groups to host speakers of their choice.” It seems to us that Yiannopoulos’ speech crosses the line between protected free speech and less protected speech that incites violence. The First Amendment allows for every citizen to speak civilly, but does not compel us to provide a platform for that speech.

Puri describes CSUF as a campus “surrounded by and challenged by a true marketplace of ideas,” repeating the phrase “marketplace of ideas” twice. We are troubled by this neoliberal language. CSUF is not an economic business marketplace. It is a learning community that must remain committed to upholding the shared principles necessary to support intellectual development. We know from history that, when thoughtful people stay silent, less thoughtful people take over.

If we are to remain unaffected, pretending that Yiannopoulos’ menace to our community principles is really just another idea on a market shelf, we risk abandoning our students, leaving them on their own to navigate this contrived and false market. We also potentially send the message that ideas don’t matter anyway. This is contrary to the founding principles and traditions of higher education. In dangerous times such as these, ideas are exactly what matter.

We hope CSUF will reconsider supporting Yiannopoulos’ appearance on campus.

The students, staff and faculty who have worked hard to organize a Unity Block Party truly hope for a peaceful, civil and respectful day, but we do not accept the lie that Yiannopoulos’ presence will not affect classes or classroom activity.

Faculty are invited to attend the student-led Unity Block Party in full academic regalia, gathering in front of the Humanities and Social Sciences building at 5:15 p.m. Oct. 31, to show our academic commitment to the positive, inclusive and peaceful message of the Unity Block Party.


Elaine Lewinnek, American studies
Mohammad Abdel Haq, sociology
Shelly Arsneault, political science
Christina Barbieri, American studies
Iris Blandon-Gitlin, psychology
Gulhan Bourget, mathematics
Jon Bruschke, human communication studies
Christina Ceisel, communications
Khemara Has, psychology
Brady Heiner, philosophy
Ariella Horwitz, American studies
Andrew Howat, philosophy
Sara Fingal, American studies
Karyl Ketchum, women and gender studies
Carrie Lane, American studies
Gloria Monti, cinema and television arts
Jessie Peissig, psychology
Arlene Ring, American studies
Sharon Sekhon, American studies
Mark Stohs, finance
Jen Thompson, history
Lisa Weisman-Davlantes, psychology
Anthony Alvarez, sociology
Andrea Patterson, liberal studies
Erika M. Thomas, human communication studies
Jessie Peissig, psychology
Alexandro Jose Gradilla, Chicana/o studies
Hunter Hargraves, cinema and television arts
Patrick Covert-Ortiz, American studies
Sora Tanjasiri, health science
Dana Collins, sociology
Karen Stocker, anthropology
Yuying Tsong, human services
Lucia Alcala, psychology
Carl Wendt, anthropology
Barbra Erickson, anthropology
Eriko Self, psychology
William W. Haddad, history
Inez Gonzalez – communications
Craig Baker, psychology
Amanda Perry, psychology
Satoko Kakihara, modern languages and literatures
Mindy Mechanic, psychology
Benikia Kressler, special education
Nadia Alvarez, psychology
Michael Baker, psychology
Pam Fiber-Ostrow, political science
Estela Zarate, education
Lana Dalley, English, comparative literature and linguistics
Olga Mejia, counseling
Eric Estuar Reyes, Asian-American studies
Sapna Chopra, counseling
Jim Ruby, human services
Karen Stocker, anthropology
Yuying Tsong, human services
Rosie Ordonez, literacy and reading education
Susan Sy, psychology
Aitana Guia, history
Pablo Jasis, elementary and bilingual education
Ian Roberson, psychology
Ana Linda Arellano Nez, Chicana/o studies
Gabriela Nunez, Chicana/o studies
Susie Woo, American studies
Mia Sevier, human services
Kyle Smith, psychology
Mei-Ling Malone, African-American studies
Jennifer Trevitt, Psychology
Sharon Chappell, elementary and bilingual education
Michelle Barr, kinesiology
Barbara Cherry, psychology
Jose Luis Serrano Najera, Chicana/o studies
David Gerkens, psychology
Eliza Noh, Asian-American studies

And several adjunct faculty who wish to remain anonymous.

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9 commentsOn Op-Ed: Faculty concerned that Yiannopoulos’ ‘Troll Academy’ will disrupt CSUF students

  • Democrats are fascist cowards who hate free speech.

  • Actually, as a public school receiving Federal and state tax dollars you are subject to the first amendment. Plenty of courts have held that means you cannot reject speakers based on their content. That is called viewpoint discrimination. You are correct that speech that incites violence is not protected under the first amendment but neither is violence perpetrated on someone because of their views. The CR’s are correct in that the only violence associated with Yiannopoulos is violence perpetrated on him and attendees to his events by left-wing agitators. I suggest the professors take a refresher course on the history of the first amendment and the associated case law. They will find out that spoken words are not the equivalent of assault unless they advocate such activity and are directly linked to an assault. It is fine to empathize with students concerns, but it is more important to help them learn how to deal with speech they oppose rather than helping them to avoid it. Such is real life.

  • “We are troubled by this neoliberal language”

    So are any neoliberals allowed to speak or do they all get shut down too?

    My dear professors, why don’t you list a few examples of conservative speakers whose presence would not infuriate you? Because you can’t?

  • And who, exactly, gets to decide which ideas are “worthy” of consideration?

  • The mob, of course – as always. The difference being this mob has been allowed to cloak itself in self-righteousness.

  • Lo and behold, only one STEM professor. I wonder why?

  • I’m going to guess you got your law degree from Walmart with that lazy interpretation of the case law related to the 1st amendment issues surrounding controversial speakers at universities. I’m also 100% sure you’d be investing this same energy into defending ISIS if they wanted to speak at CSUF (/sarcasm).

    If you’re actually interested int he case law, a simple lexis search (or google search even) will reveal that several US circuit courts have found that the 1st amendment right of controversial speakers to speak at public universities isn’t absolute, and in fact, that receiving public funding doesn’t mean that universities have to accept whoever wants to speak. That’s why universities can create rules and restrictions governing such speakers, like when and where they may speak, as long as those rules are applied fairly and don’t target the content of the speech. So for instance, CSUF could decide that the safety risks and costs of hosting your lover Milo is too great and prevent him from speaking on campus. That DOES NOT violate his first amendment right, and is well within the right of the campus to do so.

    If you think the Circuit court’s rulings aren’t good enough, you will be excited to know that the Supreme Court upheld them in 1983 in, Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators’ Association 460 U.S. 37 (1983). For a more recent case in a circuit court you can check out American Civil Liberties Union v. Mote,. 423 F.3d 438 (4th Cir. 2005).

    While Student’s first amendment rights are nearly absolute on campus, this doesn’t necessarily extend to agitators like your lover Milo, who incite violence against students of the university and cost hundreds of thousands of public dollars in safety costs.

    You might think that Milo’s words are offensive, but not violent. Ant that’s easy to think when he isn’t targeting you…. But you don’t just have to take my word for it, there is case law on where the brightline stands between violent and non violent language in this case. a 1942 case may shed some light here. A speakers language may be considered “fighting words”” if there is a great risk that it may encourage violence against specific targets. So for instance, encouraging students to our undocumented students, or trans folks, might be interpreted as “fighting words” given the risk it poses to those students. You can find that case cited at Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (No. 255).

    Now I’ve got to get back to my day job, as should you. Stop talking about the first amendment please, as you probably haven’t read any of the surrounding case law, which determines how it’s interpreted in this specific case.

  • This is for Kamal who apparently withdrew his/her/xir/etc original post. As long as a publicly financed institution holds out public places, whether specifically or by tradition, for expression it is bound by the 1st amendment to allow access to all on an equivalent basis without regard to the content. Of course it is subject to reasonable time, place and manner rules as long as they are consistent and not restrictive. From your own cited Perry Education case, “The Constitution forbids a State to enforce certain exclusions from a forum generally open to the public even if it was not required to create the forum in the first place. Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U. S. 263 (1981) (university meeting facilities); City of Madison Joint School District v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Comm’n, 429 U. S. 167 (1976) (school board meeting); Southeastern Promotions, Ltd. v. Conrad, 420 U. S. 546 (1975) (municipal theater). [Footnote 7]

    Page 460 U. S. 46

    Although a State is not required to indefinitely retain the open character of the facility, as long as it does so, it is bound by the same standards as apply in a traditional public forum. Reasonable time, place, and manner regulations are permissible, and a content-based prohibition must be narrowly drawn to effectuate a compelling state interest. Widmar v. Vincent, supra, at 454 U. S. 269-270.

  • All of these professors are cowards and a disgrace to their profession. College instructors have always embraced the marketplace of ideas and free-flowing speech and dialogue. You don’t have to like Milo but he should be allowed to speak. I am disgusted with the filthy rhetoric coming out of many leftist speakers, but I always support their right to speak. If I am too offended by what they say, I know I always have the option of NOT ATTENDING!!! You people make me sick. FREE SPEECH FOREVER!!!!!!!

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