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

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 This is an attempt to intimidate using outdated, obnoxious, hateful and disproved ideas.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.

Sincerely,

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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