Students call for UNM to bar speaker

Several students and minority groups are protesting a visit from a right-wing figure set to speak at the University of New Mexico next week.

Milo Yiannopoulos
Milo Yiannopoulos

According to university spokeswoman Dianne Anderson, the students asked acting President Chaouki Abdallah to ban Milo Yiannopoulos, a provocateur, speaker and writer for the far-right Breitbart News website, from speaking on campus.

“Some of Milo Yiannopoulos’ recent actions at other universities do not align with the values and standards that the (Student Union Building) and UNM works to maintain,” read a letter from the protesting students sent to the president’s office ahead of the meeting called to discuss the Yiannopoulos event.

In a meeting Thursday, students and administrators in a cramped room spoke over each other. The students raised concerns over Yiannopoulos.

“I feel like you guys are not taking this seriously,” one of those in attendance said.

The Journal learned about the event after it happened, but it was partially recorded on Facebook by the UNM Kiva Club, a Native American organization.

Abdallah had to leave the meeting early, but he said, “UNM is not endorsing what he says, but we have to protect free speech. Counter his speech with speech of your own,” in a statement afterward.

Yiannopoulos’ pending event has been the subject of arguments between those who want him to speak and those who don’t.

The UNM College Republicans, who are hosting the event, recently protested a decision by UNM to charge it $3,400 in security fees to allow Yiannopoulos, who is gay, to speak as part of his “Dangerous Faggot Tour.” He is scheduled to speak at the UNM Student Union Building from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 27, according to a Facebook page for the event.

The College Republicans described the fee as a “free speech fine,” a charge the university refutes. It’s unclear if the event will be canceled if the group can’t pay the fee.

Anderson said the university is treating the Yiannopoulos event like any other. For example, the university charged the undergraduate student body about $8,400 in security fees for the 2016 Fiestas, an all-day outdoor concert. Other events such as a laser light festival last year cost $2,275, and a concert by Jack White, a popular musician, cost $2,000. She added that the university is considering the protests at other colleges and planned protests at UNM’s campus.

Yiannopoulos has written articles for Breitbart with headlines such as “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews,” and also wrote that “America has a Muslim problem.” He was also permanently banned from Twitter in connection with a harassment campaign that included racist insults directed at actress Leslie Jones.

Yiannopoulos has been greeted with protests on many campuses. One event was canceled Saturday at the University of California at Davis after hours of protest.

At least one group at UNM, The Red Nation, has announced plans on its Facebook page, saying its goal is to “deny Milo a platform at UNM by taking the room, the stage, and the mic.”

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