This week we discussed the effort to impeach two student leaders at Bowdoin. Their offense was wearing sombreros as a fiesta-themed party. Now, there is an effort to impeachment a conservative student leader at the University of Southern California for inviting a conservative speaker to campus. Jacob Ellenhorn appears to have done little more than facilitate conservative voices to be heard on campus.
Ellenhorn is a student senator at USC and president of the College Republicans. The official complaint alleges that Ellenhorn “created a hostile environments (sic) for our USC study body, and has also violated our USC Principles of Community by bringing a speaker and moderating an event that blatantly perpetuates sexism.”
That speaker appears to be Milo Yiannopoulos, a Greek born British journalist and the Technology Editor for Breitbart.com. Yiannopoulos says that he has faced a slew of cancelations on campuses as groups call his views “hate speech” or denounce him as “a rape apologist.”
Yiannopoulos is obviously very, very conservative. However, colleges are supposed to bring together different viewpoints and voices. Yet, faculty and students were outraged that such views were expressed on campus. Stephen Smith, an adjunct professor and executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation, insisted that Yiannopoulos is prejudiced and that “Harmful speech has no place in the Trojan community.” Smith seems to discard any notion of diversity in speakers:
“Whatever Yiannopoulos has to say on campus, his invitation here calls into question the human values as well as the academic standards of the USC College republicans. Controversial celebrity presenters may draw an audience, but the integrity of the USC College Republicans is rubbished by such content, the high standards of excellence we all try to uphold at USC are undermined, and the USC community as a whole is deeply offended on behalf of its women students, staff and faculty.”
What is particularly troubling is how the mere expression of controversial views was viewed by some as intolerable and even personally threatening. Marcus Robinson, president of Pitt’s Rainbow Alliance, said that having Yiannopoulos speak made him fearful of being on campus. He is quoted as saying “I felt I was in danger, and I felt so many people in that room were in danger. This event erased the great things we’ve done.” Robinson reportedly said that the University should have provided counselors in a neighboring room to help students who felt “invalidated” or “traumatized” by the event.
I have never heard Yiannopoulos or read his work. However, I fail to see how allowing a conservative voice — even an arch conservative voice — should be “traumatizing” to those who disagree with such views. College is a time to hear a plethora of different voices and values, even some which you may reject. If students feel “invalidated” by a conservative speaking on campus, they can “validate” their own views with their own speakers.