A racist and an illegal immigrant on a college campus

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He is one of America’s more polarizing figures. He embraces every possible position in opposition to political correctness; he taunts gays and lesbians; he espouses racism; he denounces people who are not in the U.S. legally.

He is Milo Yiannopoulos.

Would you invite him to your college campus?

(Post continues after poll)

Yiannopoulos recently spoke at the University of Washington. As you might guess, the hostility directed at him and directed by him at his opponents was palpable. The Chronicle of Higher Education examined his appearance in Seattle, noting

In December the [university] president released a statement expressing disgust for Mr. Yiannopoulos’s tactics. Without naming him, she addressed the Breitbart editor directly.

“If all you can do is attack and tear down those you disagree with, then I encourage you to level your attacks at me,” she wrote. “While some of the points you claim to be trying to make are worthy of discussion, I am proud to stand in opposition to those who are not only willing, but actively looking to stir up hate and fear, especially when it is targeted at those who are already the most vulnerable.” …

If the president had tried to block Mr. Yiannopoulos’s talk, the university would have faced a lawsuit that it would have lost, according to Ronald K.L. Collins, a professor at the law school who specializes in the First Amendment.

Colleges are supposed to be places of free speech and where all ideas, however ugly they might be to you or me, should be heard. Right? If you believe that, then you have to accept that Yiannopolous’ ideas must have a place in the conversation on campus, no?

The argument often espoused by conservatives is worth remembering: Are you really afraid of words? A University of Pennsylvania instructor has a suggested answer.

I have zero interest in meeting Yiannopolous. I’d not be disappointed if he and I were never in the same room. I loathe what he believes. But as someone who is committed to fostering free speech, I admit that I wouldn’t ban him simply because his rhetoric is reprehensible to me.

Sure, I recognize there is real potential that having Yiannopolous on campus could lead to a confrontation between his supporters and detractors. And, yes, such a confrontation could lead to injury. But if we allow ourselves to succumb to fearing what might happen, then we prevent that which must happen: a frank exchange of ideas, even if that man has no interest in hearing the other side.

At the same time, aren’t universities supposed to be places where an education is given to those who are admitted, no matter where those students call home? Short answer: Yes. And that means that while I advocate that the doors for Yiannopolous should remain open, so, too, should they be open to those who qualify under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act, or DACA.

DACA was signed by President Obama in 2012. It allows young people who came to America as children of illegal immigrants to remain in the country, provided they meet certain conditions. One of those conditions is they are in school.

According to Educators for Fair Consideration, an advocacy group for undocumented students, as many as 13,000 undocumented college students are covered by DACA. Spare me the nonsense that they take a spot from an American citizen. Spare me the nonsense that they or their families have not made any contribution to the United States. And most definitely spare me the nonsense that they might be dangerous people who have intentions to harm our country.

Colleges and universities are not alone in grappling with the question of what to do with illegal immigrants in a political environment in which throwing millions of them out of the country is equated to toughness.

The Guardian reports that churches, synagogues and more have an especially important role in preventing the indiscriminate deportation of illegal immigrants. Consider this excerpt from that story:

According to a recent tally by Church World Service, there are now more than 800 religious congregations in the United States that are engaged in the sanctuary movement (not all serve as hosting congregations), up from about 400 pre-election.

“I think we’ll see that more and more congregations are going to try to create sanctuary spaces and try to stop these raids from happening,” says the Rev Noel Anderson, the Grassroots Coordinator for Immigrants’ Rights at Church World Service. “It’s very exciting to see how many people of faith are really called to action by the current climate.”

I think it’s very exciting to see how many people are suddenly engaged in the political process, whether that involves protesting, calling their representatives or speaking out for what they believe. We won’t always agree on what we say, but we should always make reasoned arguments for why we believe what we do.

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This entry was posted in academic administrations, college students, colleges and universities, democracy, free speech, higher education, illegal immigrants, Immigration, racism. Bookmark the permalink.

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