Alt-right firebrand set to speak at N.Y.U.

Milo Yiannopolous has been invited to speak at N.Y.U. by a liberal-studies professor.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Milo Yiannopolous, the inflammatory alt-right commentator, is scheduled to speak about “the identity politics of Halloween” at a New York University professor’s class Wednesday.

The story was broken Sunday by the Washington Square News, the university’s student newspaper.

Yiannopolous, a former editor at the alt-right news site Breitbart, previously was slated to address a Republican club at the school in 2016, but his appearance was canceled due to safety concerns.

Yiannopolous has called for deporting Muslims from Western countries and for killing journalists. A vocal Trump supporter, he was banned from Twitter in 2016 for allegedly leading a “racist harassment campaign” against comedian Leslie Jones of “Saturday Night Live.”

The Daily News reported that N.Y.U.’s Graduate Student Organizing Committee sent out a tweet condemning the lightning rod’s appearance.

“Milo and his fascist, white supremacist speech — which has often included calls to violence — are dangerous for many of our students,” N.Y.U. GSOC posted on Twitter. “For educational workers, this is what a workplace safety struggle looks like. He has no place in any classroom.”

Professor Michael Rectenwald, who reportedly proudly identifies as a “deplorable,” independently invited Yiannopolous to speak to his class, neither giving notification to the university nor seeking its approval.

“This appearance does not represent an endorsement of his views,” Rectenwald told the Washington Square News. “It is just to get some perspective, some diversity of perspective in the classroom.”

That said, the liberal-studies prof said of Yiannopolous, “He’s a genius. Once you hear him speak, you’ll see that he’s a genius.”

W.S.N. initially reported an N.Y.U. spokesperson saying the university was taken aback and troubled by the lack of notice about the event, and annoyed to have learned of it only through the press.

“Given the record of disruption that has accompanied Milo Yiannopoulis’ [sic] appearances on campuses, it is a source of concern to us that a faculty member would issue such an invitation without taking such rudimentary, common-sense steps as reaching out to our Dept of Public Safety to ensure his students’ — and other community members’ — safety,” John Beckman said on Sunday.

In a subsequent statement on Monday, spokesperson Beckman shifted the focus to the importance of upholding the “free exchange of ideas.”

“At N.Y.U., academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas are fundamental, guiding principles,” he said. “In line with these principles, faculty have wide authority over academic matters, such as their pursuit of their research and the conduct of their classes.

“Therefore, if a faculty member invites a speaker to his or her class, as Professor Michael Rectenwald did in this case, the assumption is that — barring insurmountable issues of public safety or disruption — the speaker will be able to appear in class and be heard. This is true even when the speaker is controversial.

“Many institutions in our society speak with a single voice. That is not true of universities,” Beckman pointed out. “The role of universities is to be a forum for many voices and many ideas, sometimes even ideas that are repudiated by much of the community. A controversial speaker’s appearance at a university must be understood not as the institution’s endorsement of the speaker’s views, but as the fulfillment of its commitment to the free exchange of ideas.

“Mr. Yiannopoulos has espoused many ideas that are at odds with the values of the N.Y.U. community and are offensive to its members,” Beckman added. “But as an invited speaker, he will be allowed to address Professor Rectenwald’s class because even in the face of controversy and profound disagreement, adherence to the principles of academic freedom is a core value.”

The university’s statement said that since this will be a “regular class session,” it will not be open to the public or the media, but “open only to Professor Rectenwald; his invited speaker, Mr. Yiannopoulos; and the class’s regular students.”

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