This story has been updated to reflect new information.
After CU Boulder decided to host alt-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos, 225 CU faculty signed a letter that was delivered to Chancellor Philip DiStefano and university leaders Wednesday afternoon.
The faculty, who are referring to themselves as Faculty Committed to the CU Mission, are requesting that the university “support a positive, inclusive, alternative event” to Yiannopoulos’ event on Jan. 25, and for CU to work with faculty to improve the campus climate and inclusion, a faculty member who wished to remain anonymous said.
“Mr. Yiannopoulos has a history of denigrating members of protected classes,” the faculty member said. “Hate speech should not be normalized.”
Yiannopoulos, who was banned by Twitter in July for inciting racist remarks against actor Leslie Jones, is scheduled to speak on campus Jan. 25. He was invited by the CU College Republicans and the CU chapter of Turning Point USA, a conservative activist group. Chancellor DiStefano, in a column emailed to students, encouraged the campus to embrace different viewpoints after receiving concerns in letters to his office and on social media about the event.
The faculty’s letter said that the column may have “inadvertently” normalized Yiannopoulos’ inflammatory speech. Yiannopoulos has written and edited for alt-right outlet Breitbart News, and some of his events at other universities have been canceled or refused.
“[We] feel that likening Mr. Yiannopoulos’ visit to that of Supreme Court justices and elected officials is inappropriate and further normalizes him as some kind of respected authority,” the letter said, going on to point out that Yiannopoulos has praised the idea that society is in a “post-fact” era.
While a news release mentioned the Yiannopoulos event as the cause for writing the letter, the faculty’s larger goal is to “express positive suggestions related to inclusion, diversity and the current climate on campus,” the release said. The letter asks for support for teach-ins — extended forums for lecture, debate or discussions — and public events on the topics of diversity and inclusion.
“The focus is very much on creating a united campus community, positive actions that can be taken by the administration on several fronts and gratitude for steps already taken,” the faculty member said.
The faculty member also said the letter aims to ensure that CU abides by the Colorado Creed, which are three principles about respect and acceptance the school features on its website. The news release said that Yiannopoulos has “denigrate[d] members of multiple protected classes at the university.” The alt-right, a political movement in which Yiannopoulos is prominent, has been defined by racism, white nationalism and populism.
According to the CU Boulder website, a “protected [class] refers to race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, political affiliation or political philosophy.”
The letter also notes Yiannopoulos’ event’s connection, by way of the CU student group, to Turning Point USA, a nonprofit conservative group that maintains the website Professor Watchlist. The site has accused professors of “leftist propaganda” and “anti-American values.” The letter characterizes the site as “McCarthyist.” A CU Boulder philosophy professor was once spotlighted on the list. Ken McConnellogue, a CU spokesman, denounced the site in a Daily Camera interview in November.
“This attempt to silence and intimidate professors is something we hope would be publicly condemned by all of our campus leadership, in accordance with Article 5 of the Board of Regents’ Laws and Policies,” the faculty letter said.
The letter was delivered to the chancellor at his office on Wednesday and was sent to other university leadership electronically. The faculty member said the group is trying to better the campus climate of diversity and inclusion, which has been an issue the university has been developing a plan to address over the past year.
The letter expressed gratitude to the university for its recent efforts to promote inclusiveness and diversity, pointing to an example of a Nov. 9 statement by the chancellor about the presidential election and upholding the Colorado Creed.
Students have started three petitions regarding the Yiannopoulos event. Two call on the university to cancel it, and one calls for CU to fund an alternative event to take place at the same time as Yiannopoulos’. The chancellor had no comment about the petitions when the CU Independent reached out this week. Two of the petitions had garnered more than 1,700 signatures as of Wednesday.
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