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Reprinted from TheFire.org.
Recently I described in detail how University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) has been struggling to deny the obvious: Student government officials completely denied funding for $2,000 for a David Horowitz event sponsored by the College Republicans (CRs) earlier this year because of opposition to his views and expression, while a second group of student government officials voted to hide the evidence by suppressing the minutes of the meeting and also engaged in viewpoint discrimination to deny much of the funding for the event.
The CRs had requested $1,770, and after a lot of strong denunciations of Horowitz’s views and expression, the second student government body voted to allocate $1,100 for the event. But after the audience erupted in complaints, this body revisited the question and allocated only $800. Under pressure from FIRE, the UCSB administration stepped in and made sure that the CRs received $1,800, although it was very hard to figure out how UCSB had done the transactions until UCSB released a key document on October 6.
Those are the facts; alternative accounts are undocumented at best and lies at worst. A couple of the lies made it into the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday.
Last week, UCSB student newspaper The Daily Nexus published its own whitewash on some points, although it acknowledged many of the key facts, including the intervention of UCSB administrator Katya Armistead, Director of the Office of Student Life. A bunch of the misrepresentations in the article seem to be uncritical quotations of university officials, and some of them seem to be due to imprecise writing. Some of the themes in the article, however, are so misleading (or plainly incorrect) that they need to be addressed here.
As an initial matter, I should note that the main writer of the article, Katherine Friedman, left me a single voice mail at 7:44 pm (far after East Coast business hours) supposedly to get my comment on Tuesday, October 18. (FIRE’s website made it clear that I would be out of the office on October 19 giving lectures in Texas.) She apparently did not try again, and the article appeared on October 20.
As for the substance of the article, perhaps the most serious mistake was the uncritical acceptance of the idea that a “safety” rationale for denial of funding the event had merit:
Though several students verbalized serious concerns for their personal wellbeing given Horowitz’s potential to incite violence, FIRE’s most recent statement mentioned only one such comment.
As I wrote at the time, however, the “incitement” argument and the “I feel unsafe” argument have no merit in a situation like this. “Incitement” is about inspiring people who agree with you to join you in some unlawful act. If people are inspired to violence against David Horowitz or others because they hate what David Horowitz has to say, that makes David Horowitz and those others the victims of a mob. And as for safety, I wrote:
In fact, if anybody might become violent because of Horowitz’s speech, it is one or more of his critics. As one person named Ahmed [Mostafa] said at the meeting:
Ahmed: If this is funded, whatever is incited from this is on the Council’ hands. Reads quote from David about what wearing a headscarf means. I don’t want to endanger students and I don’t want my student fees to fund that endangerment. There have been many things that have been against law and we may need to take a stance and be put on the line.
Rachel: We can tell by the atmosphere of this meeting we are going to need the security [...]
But it is unconstitutional to lay the burden for others’ violent conduct at the hands of the controversial speaker. As FIRE’s letter to Chancellor Henry T. Yang pointed out, such a “heckler’s veto” would mean that the most intolerant, violent people in the community get to decide which speech will take place on campus, simply by threatening violence and interfering with an event and causing the speaker to have to pay for security to keep the violent protesters under control.
Next, we should address the bellyaching from UCSB Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Young.
“The problem with FIRE is they wanted controversy where there is none, so they’re trying to create one,” Young said. “This had been resolved before FIRE got into it; they’re just trying to create a situation where none exists.
This is plainly false. There was no controversy? Good luck persuading a single rational person on campus that David Horowitz’s speech wasn’t controversial among student organizations and in the student government, as reported multiple times by several Daily Nexus journalists. The Daily Nexus sure thought there was a funding controversy at the time. Why is Katherine Friedman throwing her fellow student journalists under the bus?
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