More than 100 UC Berkeley faculty members have called for a boycott of classes and campus activities during Milo Yiannopoulos’ “Free Speech Week,” which is scheduled for September 24th to 27th.
Michael Cohen, an associate professor of African American studies at UC Berkeley, told The Daily Californian that free speech week is a “clear threat to public higher education.”
“People are coming to humiliate others and incite violence… the boycott is a refusal to allow this to happen on our campus,” Cohen explains.
The call for a boycott is outlined in an open letter to the Berkeley community at large and is displayed in the Daily Cal publication. The letter is eight pages long — only two of which contain the actual message, with the other six pages filled by signatures from 132 UC Berkeley faculty members, belonging to numerous academic departments. One of the main concerns is the presence of students on campus during the week-long event which Cohen describes as “unethical” and “discriminatory.”
The faculty members’ letter declares that “as faculty committed to the safety of our students and our campus, we are calling for a complete boycott of all classes and campus activities while these Alt-Right events are taking place at the very center of UC Berkeley’s campus.”
“We refuse to grant the Alt-Right the media spectacle that they so desperately desire,” the signers exclaim.
In the tempestuously typed document, Cohen urges all Berkeley faculty to take three preemptive actions prior to Free Speech Week.
The requests include:
-Cancel classes and tell students to stay home. A boycott of classes affirms that our fundamental responsibility as faculty is to protect the safety and well being of all our students.
-Close buildings, close departments and let staff stay home. If the campus is unsafe for student learning then it is unsafe for staff members to work.
-Faculty who decide to hold class during this week, in the face of these explicit threats, should not penalize students who are afraid to come to campus. It is unfair and discriminatory for faculty to schedule exams or require attendance during this week. Such an expectation forces students to choose between their physical safety, their mental well being, and a grade.
Cohen made sure to tell the Daily Cal that he, as well as his fellow faculty members, are in no way fearful of the opinions expressed by conservative speakers such as Steve Bannon, Ann Coulter, or Milo Yiannopoulos. Instead, he states they carry “a deep anxiety” over supposed violence their devotees may conduct.
The faculty members acknowledge the college’s obligation as a taxpayer-funded university to uplift free speech as inscribed in the Constitution. In spite of this, they make the argument that providing a platform to the right-wing speakers is actually contradictory to upholding the first amendment.
They proclaim that they are specifically standing against “speech that presents imminent physical danger and speech that disrupts the university’s mission to educate.” They add that “Milo, Coulter and Bannon do not come to educate; they and their followers come to humiliate.”