College students must learn to tolerate opposition



A portrait of Milo Yiannopoulos taken in October 2015.

By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

Milo Yiannopoulos, a senior editor for Breitbart News, received a significant amount of attention as a Twitter troll until he got banned from the site last summer.

His quick-witted humor, which is known to go from funny to controversial in the blink of an eye, has made him a character to watch for the last several months.

Last Wednesday, Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley.  Before he arrived at the campus, Breitbart released a story saying that he would use the event to question whether or not university campuses are becoming safe havens for illegal immigrants to avoid deportation.  There were also unconfirmed reports that he would publicly name these students.

Yiannopoulos never had the opportunity to speak. Protesters and rioters created such an unsafe environment that the speech was canceled.  More than 1,000 individuals stood outside of the campus building to voice their opinions.

What started as a regular protest elevated from barriers being knocked over to the throwing of smoke bombs to actual fires and fights.  Eventually, the campus police put the school on lockdown and demanded that the gathering split.

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Though some may understand the concern over the planned content of his speech, the response was entirely wrong.  Whether it be this case or a speech by Gavin McInnes or anyone else, when a fight between political ideologies results in a situation like this it is crucial to go back and examine how the occurrence arose in the first place.

The political disagreement was no longer based on fact.  Instead, as has become so common, it was a fight of emotion.  As a gay, self-proclaimed Jewish and Republican man, Yiannopoulos represents a position that is counter to what many of his critics would like to see.

Being shut down from speaking in an academic forum is not a new occurrence.  But the reality is that when students enter the “real world,” no one will cancel a speech because the speaker has differing political views.  Students on many campuses are being sheltered, and it is negatively impacting their experiences later in life.

President Trump reacted to the cancellation on Twitter, saying: “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

Donald J. Trump on Twitter: “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS? / Twitter”

If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?

Universities are a place to listen and learn from a diverse range of opinions and positions.  There are some colleges prepared to uphold this and some that are not.

While the topic has been discussed at length on campus, schools close to us have taken much larger statements.

On one hand, we can look at a school like Depaul University and see intense protests over the last number of months.  On the other hand, we can look at a school like the University of Chicago, which said there would be no safe space for their students.

It is hypocritical for the protesters in this case to claim they are from the side of tolerance.  Their tolerance only includes the people with the same viewpoints as them, and that is not acceptable.

Since the incident, Milo’s book sales have skyrocketed.  He has had interviews and news stories from countless sources, and it’s clear people are curious to hear what he has to say.

We are not in a cliché middle school with mean girls and nerds — students must learn to listen to other perspectives and challenge their own.  These groups that say they want to band together to help everyone are now making others feel the discomfort and pain they claim to oppose.

There seems to be an underlying trend: If you do not think like someone else, your thoughts will not be heard.  So long as dialogue can occur in peace and respect, all conversation should have a place where it can take place.

If we can learn anything from the events at UC Berkeley and apply it to our lives here, it is to change this mindset and become welcoming to all people and all perspectives.

Hayley is a sophomore in ACES.

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