A lot of people on campus are upset about Milo Yiannopoulos, who will be trick or treating – er, I mean “visiting” our campus on Halloween. All I know about this guy is what I’ve read in the newspaper. I’ve never attended one of his performances, watched his videos, read his material or bought any of the merchandise he peddles on his website. I guess he’s pretty successful at marketing his brand. To his credit, he is quite wealthy. I don’t know whether his shtick is sincere or just what he does to afford a fat 401(k), a nice home and lots of vacations to places where a passport is needed to get in.
There’s a lot of angst on campus right now, but instead of getting our collective panties in a bunch over Yiannopoulos’ visit, I think there’s a better approach Cal State Fullerton should take as an institution of higher education. Use this as a learning experience.
Okay, I know this sounds trite, but hear me out.
CSUF students could, individually and collectively, inquire to find out what this Yiannopoulos guy is all about and how relevant he is in our lives. Inquiring doesn’t mean you surrender your own values, and it doesn’t mean you embrace Yiannopoulos’. It means you ramp down the rhetorical freak out and take some time to think about what Yiannopoulos’ appearance here means and whether it’s something good for us all.
Roll up your sleeves, visit the library and do some research to create your own story about him. Communications students could research Yiannopoulos’ past appearances and then write about the impact appearances had on universities and their communities. Broadcast and film students could shoot YouTube videos interviewing campus community members about their opinions. Students in the Humanities and Social Sciences could do research on hate speech and then write about its impact on society and culture. In the sciences, students could study and then write about the physiological effects of fear on the body. Business, math and statistics students could look at the economic impact of right-wing politics in America. Every discipline has something to learn here. So in that sense, every CSUF student has something to gain from Yiannopoulos’ visit. Let’s get busy.
I know that some students are planning to stay away from campus Oct. 31. (Yiannopoulos may or may not have had anything to do with this, since I know y’all have big nighttime costume party plans anyway.) Some faculty plan to cancel classes that day. University policy allows class cancellation but also directs faculty to provide an alternative assignment in the event a class is canceled. Ta-da! I have provided a few alternate assignment ideas that would slip effortlessly into a variety of courses and would result in more thoughtful approaches to the Yiannopoulos visit.
My life is full already, so I don’t have room to take in whatever it is Yiannopoulos is selling. But those troubled about his appearance here and those whose lives are impacted have the obligation as learners to do thoughtful inquiry. Ask questions. Find answers. Then act responsibly. This is what scholars do in a community of higher learning.
Doug Swanson, Ed.D. APR
Accredited Public Relations Practitioner
Interim Associate Dean, College of Communications
Professor, Department of Communications