Milo Yiannopoulos, a prominent voice of the “Alt-right” conservative movement who has espoused inflammatory viewpoints like one of Muslim immigrants’ “signature delicacies” is “gang-rape,” is scheduled to speak at Cal Poly on Jan. 31 at the request of the Cal Poly College Republicans student club.
Cal Poly confirmed Nov. 29 that Yiannopoulos will be on campus, speaking at the Spanos Theater from 6 to 9 p.m.
Rubia Siddiqi, president of the Cal Poly Muslim Student Association, sent a statement to New Times opposing the speaker choice.
“There have been several instances in the past where speakers who have prejudices against Muslims are invited to come to campus by various groups, and we as Muslim students can’t do much about it because we do not get enough support from the school,” Siddiqi wrote. “If Cal Poly is trying to improve campus climate, this is certainly not the way to achieve that goal.”
An editor of Breitbart News, an online conservative news site, Yiannopoulos is commonly associated with the “Alt-right” movement, which the Associated Press’ stylebook defines as, “an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism, and populism.”
During a nationwide university speaking tour this year—which he called “The Dangerous Faggot”—Yiannopoulos has targeted a variety of social groups with his rhetoric, including Muslims, immigrants, refugees, and feminists.
Speaking at the University of Alabama in October, Yiannopoulos said, “The West is flooded with Muslim refugees who seek benefits in exchange for rape and murder.”
At UC Irvine, he said, “Filling America with unskilled 22-year-old Muslim men will have the same effect in America that it had in Europe. Mayhem … . We know Muslims hate everyone: They go out of their way to make that clear.”
Katherine Rueckert, a junior and president of the Cal Poly College Republican club, described Yiannopoulos as “a leading critic of the systematic censorship found on college campuses,” in an emailed statement to New Times.
“Many individuals think that his ‘politically incorrect’ speech is refreshing. He has struck a chord that resonates with young people,” Rueckert said. “The point of bringing any speaker to campus is to allow students to hear opinions that may differ from their own. This is what we should be encouraging on our campus: engaging each other in civil dialogue.”
Last year, two Cal Poly students, one gay and another of foreign descent, were targeted with death threats and dorm vandalism. Those incidents spurred a student movement, SLO Solidarity, and new university policies to improve campus climate.
Cal Poly Public Relations Director Matt Lazier sent the following statement to New Times about the school’s decision to host Yiannopoulos.
“Cal Poly’s campus is an open environment where opinions, ideas, and thoughts are freely shared—even those that some may find distasteful and offensive. Censoring viewpoints that we don’t agree with violates free speech and does not represent what we stand for as a university. Rather, free speech and the open exchange of ideas and opinions—even those that conflict with our own—is an important part of student growth and preparation for success in today’s global marketplace.”
Siddiqi with the Muslim Student Association agreed with the importance of free speech, but expressed concern about where to draw a line.
“Allowing a speaker to come and speak unjustly about a minority group on campus is only going to increase negativity at school,” she said. “Every American has the right to free speech, but the type of speech that incites hate crimes is not OK.”