Berkeley profs cancel classes for 'mental safety'
University of California-Berkeley professors are cancelling classes so that students can boycott the “free speech week” event featuring Milo Yiannopoulos, Steve Bannon, and Ann Coulter.
The letter—which was co-authored by seven faculty members and signed by 132 members of various university departments—calls on faculty to cancel classes and tell their students to stay home; close buildings and departments, if possible; and/or pledge not to penalize students for missing class, according to The Daily Californian.
"I really hope there is not violence but everything is being carried out to provoke and expect it."
Warning that a series of “explicitly violent Alt-Right, Militia, and pro-Fascist events are being planned” for September 24-27, and that this will lead to violent confrontations, they say that “We cannot ask students and staff to choose between risking their physical and mental safety in order to attend class or come to work in an environment of harassment, intimidation, violence, and militarized policing.”
“The reality is that particularly vulnerable populations (DACA students, non-white, gender queer, Muslims, disabled, feminists, and others) have already been harmed, and are reporting increased levels of fear and anxiety about the upcoming events, the increased police presence on our campus, and how all this will impact their lives and their studies,” the letter stated.
“Many of these provocateurs’ most committed audiences are online, and the Breitbart media machine uses that audience to harass, cyberbully, and threaten anyone who speaks out against them,” it continues, claiming that “students and faculty on our campus have already had their lives threatened for speaking out against Milo and his followers.”
Specifically mentioning DACA recipients, the letter says that making DACA students go to campus for classes places them under an “imminent threat,” and that “faculty who DO hold classes are disadvantaging DACA students and others who will feel threatened by being on campus.”
“This is a clear threat to public higher education,” said Professor Michael Cohen told The Daily Californian. “People are coming to humiliate others and incite violence…The boycott is a refusal to allow this to happen on our campus.”
Cohen would add that ““We’re not afraid of Milo, Ann [Coulter], or Bannon’s words. We have a deep anxiety over the violence that their followers bring in response.”
“The University's legal obligation is clear,” Assistant Vice Chancellor Dan Mogulof said in response to the faculty letter. “The protections for free speech contained in the First Amendment as interpreted by subsequent case law oblige us to allow any speaker who has been invited in accordance with our policies to speak without discrimination in regard to content.”
Mogulof added, however, that “It is up to faculty to decide how they plan to cover the curriculum for their classes over the course of a semester.”
Campus Reform talked to one of the professors who signed the letter, Charis Thompson, who said that “I am holding them online, off campus to be fair to those who aren't safe coming.”
As far as the letter to the faculty goes, he said that “the intent of the letter is to minimize risk, be fair to all, and protest the turning into [sic] a non academic circus of our campuses.”
Thompson closed by saying that “I really hope there is not violence but everything is being carried out to provoke and expect it.”
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