College Republicans working to bring in controversial speaker

(Photo courtesy of Milo Yiannopolous)
DePaul College Republicans are petitioning to bring controversial conservative writer and speaker Milo Yiannopolis to campus in May. (Photo courtesy of Milo Yiannopolous)

With the recent ‘chalking’ incident on campus and a national debate over political correctness as a backdrop, the DePaul College Republicans are aiming to bring  the self-proclaimed “internet’s greatest supervillian” to campus later this month.

Milo Yiannopolous, a conservative activist, is known for expressing his highly controversial viewpoints on college campuses across the country. He is the tech editor for Breitbart, a conservative website, and is also known for starting a scholarship program called the Privilege Grant, which is an award only extended to straight white men.

Campus Republicans started a GoFundMe account to fund the event, scheduled for May 24 in the Student Center. While the College Republicans declined to comment for this article, the description on the GoFundMe page reads: “after recent chalking incidents, DePaul students need a wake-up call” and “Universities are under attack by liberal agendas.”

As of April 29, the page had received $1,095 out of the $3,000 sought to bring Yiannopolous to DePaul. Brandon Ferllini, a sophomore computer science major, donated $35 to the cause. He hopes the event will bring more attention to free speech issues on college campuses.

“I donated to support Milo’s visit to DePaul because, in my opinion, Milo advocates for people’s right to free speech whether the words are offensive or not, especially in today’s safe space and trigger warning culture,” Ferllini said.

Jack McNeil, a DePaul freshman and the vice president of the College Democrats of Illinois, said he was not at all surprised by the news of the guest speaker.

“The Republican lean on campus has an advantage in terms of outside money,” McNeil said. “They are able to get funding by anyone, especially more conservative grassroots organizations. They are able to go out and get high-profile and more provocative speakers.”

McNeil said this decision demonstrates how the party is “messy from the top down.”

“They need to find people who is spreading their message in a positive way,” he said. “This is not getting us anywhere. This is not furthering any conversation or any policies.”

Mackenzie Carlson, a freshman psychology major, said she thinks Yiannopolous’ outrageous statements cross a line.

“He only believes in white male privilege and, as a female, that’s very depressing,” she said. “I don’t understand how somebody could be so ignorant to the fact that there’s diversity in the world.”

Carlson said Yiannopolous is trying to blur the line between free speech and hate speech.

“It’s definitely hateful speech, not just free speech,” she said. “It’s exercising your right to free speech so much that it’s discriminatory and wrong.”

But McNeil said that is what he and the College Republicans want.

“I think that’s kind of what his goal is,” he said. “That’s why he’s being sent to college campuses. They know that he is going to upset people and that is his sole goal. He would not be making money or touring if he were not saying very offensive things. The event is meant to be chaotic and that’s the only reason why this thing exists.”

The initial anger came from the use of a homophobic slur in the title of Yiannopolous’ college tour, which is called “The Dangerous F— Tour.”

DePaul spokesperson Carol Hughes said she did not believe the event at DePaul contained a slur, but could not confirm.

“When you’re using homophobic slurs, you’re crossing a line,” McNeil said. “There’s no space for slurs or hateful rhetoric on a campus that is trying to promote a conversation. It’s very concerning. What does your party stand for then?”

If the slur is included in the title, McNeil said he suspects it would play out the same way as the chalking incident.

“DePaul’s a private university that has its own policies in place,” he said. “I’m not sure what rules DePaul has in place but if it has a problem with a slur being used in the event title, then we have a problem.”

And, just like before, McNeil said it would not be about slamming conservative values.

“This is a blanket rule that applies to everyone,” he said. “It (the chalking incident) was fake, they knew the outcome and they went ahead with it — and they did a very good job spinning it.”

Ferllini said he does expect more liberal students to disrupt the event.

“Students have the choice and right to not listen to him and not give him any attention if they please,” he said. “Milo is free to speak and students are free to protest.”

McNeil said, just as Yiannopolous’ right to speak at the university is free speech, so is the students’ right to protest.

“People can react as negatively as they want, and people can speak up against very hateful things because that’s also freedom of speech,” he said. “So they (College Republicans) can’t whine when people get upset when they bring in an offensive speaker.”

Carlson said his ideals are too right wing for her to support, and plans to stay away from the event.

“I’m embarrassed for him, and even more embarrassed for the people who want to hear him speak,” she said.

Ferllini said there can be value found in hearing what the other side has to say.

“Milo is exercising free speech, whether students find it hateful or not because, in my opinion, it mostly depends on how someone interprets hate speech,” he said. “But I also believe there is educational value in listening to and understanding views and opinions that others may disagree with.”

McNeil agreed, but said he does not see the value in hosting an event strictly in the name of being controversial.

“College campuses should be the place to promote diverse opinions,” he said. “People will attend out of curiosity and outrage, but it’s going to move the party forward or any conservative issues forward.”