January 27, 2017

UNM accepting far-right speaker will hurt students


Statue of a Lobo on the University of New Mexico campus. Flickr cc

It should come as no surprise that the University of New Mexico is welcoming Milo Yiannopoulos to campus tonight. Yiannopoulous was banned from Twitter for Yiannopoulous’ and his supporters’ attacks on comedian Leslie Jones in 2016.

We are NOT inviting you to this individual’s event. In fact, we are writing to make you aware of the University’s most recent actions surrounding the occasion.

These actions are nothing short of egregious and incomprehensible. Facilities are closing early, staff is being allowed to go home early—and in some cases being sent home early—and students will be denied access to common areas for means of study—all of this without bad weather or a holiday to blame. One can only assume this is to avoid the possibility of violence that may ensue.

Yiannopoulous is on his Dangerous F****T Tour, a tour marred with controversy, opposition and violence. Yiannopoulous’ most recent tour stop at the university of Washington resulted in a protestor getting shot in the stomach by a Yiannopoulous supporter. There are claims that the shooter reached out to Yiannopoulous in support before the event.

Carlos Conteras is the Community Engagement Strategist at ProgressNow New Mexico

Why then, are we welcoming such a volatile character to the campus of one of our state’s largest institutions? UNM Acting President Chaouki T. Abdallah chose to pull the requested $3,400 security fee for this event and honor what he considers the university’s “principles of free speech.”

Numerous events in response and opposition to Yiannopoulous are taking place on campus as well. Students and faculty alike have organized in reaction to the lack of action on behalf of university administration in a show of unity.

The public is invited to join a number of student groups as concerned and passionate individuals gather to support one another and the community around them.

Info on these events can be found here and here.

One thing is certain—if students were planning on studying, they need to change those plans. UNM has taken time and requested the efforts of both campus employees and Albuquerque Police Department assistance to close libraries on campus and provide a police presence that will come at a cost to US, the taxpayers of New Mexico.

We here at ProgressNow NM support and agree with protecting access to the rights outlined and provided to us by the U.S. Constitution. We do, however, have to call into question an administration that chooses to put our community members in danger for the rights of one man to speak “freely.”

Last but not least, we would be remiss as to not to remind you that there is in fact a difference between “free speech” and “hate speech.”

*ProgressNow New Mexico helps find funding for NM Political Report. ProgressNow New Mexico does not have any say in which pieces appear at NM Political Report, including this one.