Letter to the Editor: Visit from Milo Yiannopoulos is a learning experience for CSUF students

In Letters to the Editor, Opinion
A photo of Langsdorf hall

Dear Editor,

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.

Sincerely,

Doug Swanson, Ed.D. APR
Accredited Public Relations Practitioner
Interim Associate Dean, College of Communications
Professor, Department of Communications

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2 commentsOn Letter to the Editor: Visit from Milo Yiannopoulos is a learning experience for CSUF students

  • “collective panties in a bunch”
    “my life is full already”
    Perhaps YOU might take this opportunity to do some learning. This is the most sexist, privileged, elitist white-man-splaining I have read in some time. One would think that a professor in the Department of Communications would be able to recognize that.
    I’m disgusted.

  • This is embarrassingly written. It’s also disappointing that a faculty member would chastise students who are more likely to have been directly caught up in the history/context that surround the speaker, yet in the same paragraph pride himself on how uninformed and detached he is on the topic.

    “To his credit, he is quite wealthy.” I am unsure where the logical correlation between wealth and cultural value come from. It, alongside the rest of this trash letter, speaks poorly of the author’s judgement. The mind reels that this is truly the logic of what passes for an Accredited Public Relations Practitioner, an Interim Associate Dean, or a Professor in the Department of Communications (of all departments).

    “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.” Perhaps minorities whose lives have been and are being literally threatened by the ideologies he spreads don’t really need a homework assignment about the reality they’ve lived for the last 5-10 years, Doug. Your answer is to put his ideas directly in the classroom instead and continue to re-traumatize them? Brilliant. “Sorry this guy sent his troll squad to harass and doxx people like you on twitter, but if you just learn about how you release chemicals when you fear for your life, you might find there was a bright side to the death threats!”

    Do you know the words “gamergate”? I’m sure your students do, and moreover they probably watched it unfold on their timelines in real-time. That should be the baseline requirement of knowledge for talking about how this is a “learning experience”. We KNOW. We know who this is, but apparently you (proudly) don’t, despite having just outlined all the homework assignments for yourself to “roll up your sleeves” and do so.

    Finally, you dismissed his cult of personality by insinuating that only those with empty lives could possibly be taken in. There are plenty of bigots with “full lives” hiding in plain sight. They have children they love and hold down fulfilling jobs. Some of them even kick that child they love so much out of their house for being gay, as I saw happen to a friend as we grew up in Orange County. You’re perpetuating a harmful myth that makes it even more difficult to address the real impact of people like the speaker and the insidious ideologies they preach on everyday people. That’s the problem.

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