The university that has proudly proclaimed itself to be the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement may also become its graveyard.
“In a letter addressed to the UC Berkeley campus and the larger Berkeley community, 76 faculty members from various departments have called for a complete boycott of classes and campus activities during the so-called ‘Free Speech Week’ to be held on campus September 24-27,” Hank Reichman writes in the Academe blog maintained by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). “The week is sponsored by the Berkeley Patriot, a conservative student newspaper, and includes ‘Feminism Awareness Day’ and a ‘Mario Savio is Dead’ event. Speakers scheduled to be on campus include Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, and Steve Bannon.”
“We’re not afraid of Milo, Ann (Coulter) or Bannon’s words,” associate teaching professor of African American studies Michael Cohen, one of seven co-authors of the letter said. “We have a deep anxiety over the violence that their followers bring in response.” Actually, their supporters are most likely to be uniformed in bow ties and blazers but their detractors tend to show up ready to rumble.
The university is sticking to the schedule, for now, although they are clearly giving themselves a big out. “Although the university administration has pledged to protect the right of the three speakers and others on the program to address their audiences, UCB assistant vice chancellor for communications Dan Mogulof said yesterday that Berkeley Patriot, whose membership he estimates at between 5-10 members, ‘still has not completed the critical steps’ necessary to arrange venues for the events. The group has failed to provide requested information needed to provide security for the events, ‘nor has it confirmed the list of speakers and when they intend to schedule events with those speakers,’ Mogulof told reporter Carla Marinucci.”
“Faculty in the school’s Anthropology Department have already been compelled to reschedule a scholarly lecture to facilitate security arrangements for the week, a fact noted in the faculty letter.” All of this sounds similar to what we heard at Columbia nearly 20 years ago.