UC Campuses Support Free Speech. Trump is Wrong to Threaten UC Berkeley.
Most, if not all, UC campuses have been afflicted with their Young Republicans provocatively inviting racist, misogynist, and anti-Muslim provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on their campuses, sometimes for a second time. Rightly, his talks invite counter-protesters, executing their right of free speech, just as Mr. Yiannopoulos does, but not in hateful ways against society. The University of California supports free speech, even when it is offensive, and writes to students and faculty about this, as do the separate Campus Chancellors. Yet the Young Republicans gain their desired outcomes when some radical protestors resort to violence and force the Campuses to cancel the talks, often just hours before the talks, and to insure the safety of all involved. It is not even clear whether the violent protesters are even students.
For the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, to threaten UC Berkeley with loss of Federal Funds because some demonstrators became violent, shows not only that he needed to be correctly briefed on what happened, but also shows that he has no knowledge yet of federal funding to higher education, but also of the administrative processes of funding, of the laws and contracts of federal funding, or of the Congressional approval required for funding.
Here is what Trump tweeted: “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
There are so many lines of counters that I want to make to this that I will just list them for now and save myself a lot of additional explaining, perhaps for later, unless today brings yet another crises.
First of all, the greatest attacker of free speech and freedom of the Press in this country is President Trump himself, often through tweets, and employing his loyal henchmen, called communicators, or press secretaries, or whatever, and all of these people are supported by, wait-for-it, FEDERAL FUNDS, that’s right, our federal taxes. Except of course, not by Trump himself, who brags about being so smart that hasn’t paid federal income taxes in 18 years. I guess this means that when he cuts off FEDERAL FUNDS he is dictatorially cutting off OUR federal funding, chosen through our Congressmen and administrative reviews, without consulting with us through an election or any other process.
In front pages, TV news shows, late night shows, and TV comedy shows for weeks, and throughout Trump’s campaign, he has attacked demonstrators exercising their free speech rights, and the press, and even has urged his supporters to attack demonstrators, which they have. If anybody has encouraged violence in this country to oppose free speech and a free press, it is Trump himself.
In a picture of the demonstrators at UC Berkeley, all are marching peacefully, except a handful at the front are in black and masked, and may have caused the problem. Just as Trump called off travel from seven countries because he had a paranoid fear of one violent actor, UC Berkeley called off the talk for public safety after some attacks on property, but not people, actually did break out. Again, UC Berkeley did not call off the talk because they feared free speech, even by the most vicious alt-right speaker that could be found.
UC Berkeley has the highest admission standards among UC campuses. The students who go there have to be the most dedicatedly studious, and smartest. They will contribute greatly to research, to California professionals in medicine, law, the sciences, our social efforts, engineering, our creative cyber and computer industries, and so on. We are very proud of them and their dedication to helping and advancing society. Trump owes them an apology if he thinks that they were responsible for the violence that called off the talk.
Speaking as a UC Irvine faculty member, we are also insulted by Trump’s assertion that the University itself, or its administrators, or its faculty interfered with the exercise of free speech. This blog would not exist without free speech. It is in the interests of free speech that I now have to daily counter Trump and his henchmen’s assaults on free speech, a free Press, and on the Constitution, which Trump swore on a stack of Bibles to uphold.
I understand that the Republican right wing and Fox News has an ongoing dodge that campuses do not employ or allow right wing teachers or speakers. I now can counter that our own Business School Professor, Peter Navarro, is now the head of Trump’s National Trade Council. While Trump and Navarro complain of foreign countries’ Currency manipulations, Navarro or Trump themselves, by a simple comment or tweet, have now been able to do that on a daily basis. So there, Fox News.
As Trump well knows, even the hint that he might cut off FEDERAL FUNDS to a University, even only in a tweet, will challenge the future of the University. There are also a thousand Universities left to threaten. Most of the FEDERAL FUNDS going to the University are in fact Pell Grants and other student support. This will immediately discourage undergraduates from applying there. Trump has therefore also threatened peer reviewed research funding, and graduate students will be afraid to go there to pursue their Ph. D.s there. The University would have trouble recruiting new faculty and keeping present faculty if their funding is threatened just because of where they go. There are ten UC campuses, many of which have had or had to call of Yiannopoulos’s talks, to whom this could also be applied. And, there are many Universities around the country who may be visited by this scourge. Is each University now to be at the hands of its Young Republicans, who can threaten to invite Yiannopoulos? Would they demand that the University hire right-wing faculty who the YRs have to approve of? Doesn’t that in itself violate free speech. I can see Universities all over the country now having to lawyer-up for this.
Young Republicans have often been the source of Republican Leaders. Why would they want to invite the most racist, misogynistic, and anti-Muslim speaker, under their sponsorship and pay, when Trump is trying to say that he and his followers are not those things, and responsible Republicans are denying them as well? Why would Trump want to back such a speaker, by threatening the FEDERAL FUNDS to one of the Nation’s greatest and most helpful Universities, especially to the economy, which Trump is pledged to advance?
I have saved the zinger for last. Milo Yiannopoulos is an editor for Breitbart News. Why would former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon, now Trump’s Chief Strategist and member of the National Security Council, want to influence Trump to make such a strong defense of Yiannopoulos, such as to destroy America’s most prestigious public University? What happened to “Make America Great Again”. Trump has started an avalanche, which he would never stop, and which he might double down on, as usual.