News & Politics

Berkeley Profs Call for Boycott of Classes During 'Free Speech Week'

Berkeley Profs Call for Boycott of Classes During 'Free Speech Week'
In this Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, file photo, demonstrators clash during a free speech rally, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)

In a letter addressed to the University of California-Berkeley campus, 132 faculty members called for shutting the school down during what campus authorities are calling “Free Speech Week” later this month.

The teachers’ reasoning?

The Daily Californian reports:

The letter was co-written by seven faculty members, including campus associate teaching professor of African American studies Michael Cohen. It calls upon faculty to take three steps: cancel classes and tell students to stay home; close buildings and departments and allow staff to stay home; and not penalize students who are afraid of coming to campus. The letter was also signed by 56 individuals who aren’t part of the UC Berkeley faculty.

“This is a clear threat to public higher education,” Cohen said. “People are coming to humiliate others and incite violence. … The boycott is a refusal to allow this to happen on our campus.”

According to Cohen, most of the students in his African American Studies 27AC class are students of color. Cohen said he believed that for him to ask his students to be on campus during Free Speech Week was unethical and discriminatory.

Free Speech Week is being hosted by the Berkeley Patriot, a conservative student newspaper. The four-day event includes themes such as “Feminism Awareness Day” and “Mario Savio is Dead.” Speakers scheduled to be on campus include Milo Yiannopoulos and Steve Bannon.

“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,” Cohen said. “Chancellor Christ’s idea that we can have these people on campus is a fantasy and a dangerous one.”

Is that really the intent of the speakers — to “humiliate others and incite violence”? Of course not. You have to be stark, staring loony to believe that the speakers want to start a riot or “humiliate” anyone.

But this is not a question of “intent” as you, I, and other normal people might believe. In fact, the right-wing speakers’ “intent” is whatever the hell Berkeley teachers say it is. This core idea of what passes for debate on campus is anti-intellectual and an affront to rationalism. Unless the Berkeley faculty members have invented a way to peer into the minds of men and glean their “intent,” they’re just making sh*t up.

So just who is it that poses a “clear threat to higher education”?