Graduate Student Senate held a discussion regarding Milo Yiannopoulos’ upcoming campus visit, and specifically how to combat its controversial message, at its Wednesday night meeting.
Yiannopoulos, a British journalist, entrepreneur and public speaker, will be making a stop at Ohio University on Dec. 2. The OU College Republicans are sponsoring the event. He gained infamy as the controversial figurehead of certain alt-right political groups, actively criticizing social justice, political correctness, feminism and other related movements.
After explaining the basics of the upcoming event, President Ian Armstrong opened the floor for discussion on the topic.
“I think, all of the great ideas that we’ve had — bringing people like this to campus is moving in the complete opposite direction,” said Sabrina Paskewitz, Representative for the Department of Geography. “He is offensive to pretty much everyone. He thinks that ideas like rape culture are OK and something that is OK to laugh at and celebrate in a way that, at a place like OU, is, I think, unacceptable.”
Paskewitz described her time at Oberlin University when, instead of organizing protests in potentially harmful situations, students held positive, student-focused events. She proposed the idea that those who oppose Yiannopoulos’ views may establish similar groups, rather than “feeding his ego” with negative attention.
“It’s really important to know the difference between free speech and hate speech,” Paskewitz said.
*delfin bautista, director of the campus LGBT Center, attended the meeting with the intention of actively participating in the discussion.
“My concern is— what is this going to spark in people?” bautista said.
They clarified that the LGBT Center does not wish to cancel the visit; rather, it is concerned with the safety of the campus as well as Yiannopoulos in its wake.
Because the event will occur in the week before finals and after the results of the presidential election become known, some administrators are apprehensive that tensions will already be high on campus, and Yiannopoulos will only escalate that tension.
Large protests have formed outside and even carried inside some of Yiannopoulos’ previous events. One specific incident at DePaul University resulted in the eventual resignation of the university’s president.
bautista responded to a question regarding the university administration’s reaction to the event. They explained that a group of concerned students met earlier on Wednesday with multiple administrators with whom they discussed this issue. The official response is that administration is monitoring the situation.
The LGBT Center is currently brainstorming alternative options to attending the speech, including an organized community service event, a different speaker at a conflicting time or a counter-voice to respond to Yiannopoulos during the event itself. Many have looked at bautista to speak in the latter scenario.
Senate ultimately moved to table the discussion on Yiannopoulos, giving them more time to explore the topic at its next meeting.
bautista said those who wish to participate in some type of event related to Yiannopoulos’ visit should feel free to reach out to them via email at [email protected].
Senate also passed several resolutions. It proposed the formation of a video-creation task force in response to the free speech vs. hate speech discussion, the alteration of the LGBT committee’s title to LGBTQIA and requested Senate be involved in the review of university facility naming policies.
The next meeting will occur on Nov. 1 in Walter Hall 235.
Editor’s note: *bautista uses they/them/their pronouns and their name is spelled with all lower case letters.