Student op-ed blasts Berkeley for protecting free speech

A leader of the UC-Berkeley Black Student Union recently penned an op-ed claiming that black students feel "violated" by the school's support for free speech by conservative speakers like Ben Shapiro.

Claiming that Shapiro "is known to target communities of color," Shelby Mayes also complains that Berkeley closed several resource centers for minority students as part of security precautions for the event.

A member of the Black Student Union at the University of California-Berkeley recently penned an op-ed complaining that she felt “violated” by Ben Shapiro’s appearance on campus.

“If your perceived definition of violence is limited to the confines of physical contact, that’s probably because you’ve never had to experience the psychological trauma that comes along with being a Black person in America,” declares Shelby Mayes, who serves as Membership Development Director for the BSU, in an op-ed for The Daily Californian. “I didn’t need to be physically harmed to feel violated by my school [on September 14].”

She then notes that she is “not alone in my feelings of betrayal, disappointment, and embarrassment” over the way that UC-Berkeley has handled both the Shapiro lecture and the subsequent “Free Speech Week” featuring Milo Yiannopoulos.

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Mayes then points out that black students “are a severely underrepresented minority on campus,” and that “African American/Black students are also one of the main targets of the harmful rhetoric spewed out by various ‘alt-right’ hate speakers who have made appearances on campus under the protection and defense of the campus administration.”

Specifically, she says the BSU “has demanded a Task Force sector of UC Berkeley’s administration be devoted to the recruitment and retention of Black students on campus to combat this crushing and shameful under-representation [sic] of the Black community,” but instead saw the university spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on security for the Shapiro event.

“The administration made it clear that its priorities centered around protecting the rights of a former Breitbart editor at large by allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars for security in efforts to protect a speaker who is known to target communities of color,” she complains. “The administration put Black students and their right to feel safe in their own academic environment on the back burner, while completely failing to acknowledge the trauma associated with the police experienced by the majority of Black students on campus.”

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By devoting “funds that could have gone to uplifting underrepresented minority groups on campus” to security for the Shapiro event, she adds, “The message rang loud and clear on that day: UC Berkeley does not care about its Black students.”

Contrasting the school’s actions with Chancellor Carol Christ’s welcome statement affirming UC-Berkeley’s steadfast support free speech and “widening the doors to educational opportunity,” Mayes asks, “why then did the administration make the decision to close off the César E. Chávez Student Learning Center and Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union?”

“I write this op-ed as a call to action for members of UC Berkeley’s administration as well members of the UC Berkeley student body,” she concludes. “Stop ignoring us. Stop silencing us. Listen to us and respect our demands. We have every right to safe spaces on campus and the education that we pay for, and we will not continue to be chased away from our campus.”

Campus Reform reached out to Mayes for comment, but did not receive a response.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @asabes10