DePaul’s president expresses discontent following Yiannopoulos controversy


Following a heated day on campus marked by a controversial speaker, protests and markings containing an anti-Mexican slur, DePaul President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider responded to concerns both within and outside the DePaul community.

In an email statement sent to students, faculty and staff Wednesday morning, Holtschneider expressed his disagreement with speaker and journalist Milo Yiannopoulos, worries about the “inflammatory language” and apologies to College Republicans, who hosted the event.

“Generally, I do not respond to speakers of Mr. Yiannopoulos’ ilk, as I believe they are more entertainers and self-serving provocateurs than the public intellectuals they purport to be,” wrote Holtschneider, who is currently in Normandy, France. “Their shtick is to shock and incite a strong emotional response they can then use to discredit the moral high ground claimed by their opponents. This is unworthy of university discourse, but not unfamiliar across American higher education. There will always be speakers who exploit the differences within our human community to their own benefit, blissfully unconcerned with the damage they leave behind.”

Yiannopoulos was invited to speak at an event hosted by College Republicans Tuesday evening, attended by more than 500 guests from within and outside the university. The Breitbart journalist is notable for saying that “feminism is cancer,” that Black Lives Matter protesters are sensitive and that there is no wage gap between men and women. In his statement, Holtschneider disagreed with all of these views.

“(Yiannopoulos) argues that there is no wage gap for women, a difficult position to maintain in light of government data,” he wrote “As a gay man, he has claimed that sexual preference is entirely a choice, something few if any LGTBQ individuals would claim as their own experience. He claims that white men have fewer privileges than women or people of color, whom he believes are unfairly privileged in modern society — a statement that is immediately suspect when white men continue to occupy the vast majority of top positions in nearly every major industry.”

Still, Holtschneider expressed his discontent at protesters who interrupted the speech, the focus of which College Republicans said was free speech, a hot topic issue both on campus and in a difficult political climate.

“Yesterday’s speaker was invited to speak at DePaul, and those who interrupted the speech were wrong to do so. Universities welcome speakers, give their ideas a respectful hearing, and then respond with additional speech countering the ideas. I was ashamed for DePaul University when I saw a student rip the microphone from the hands of the conference moderator and wave it in the face of our speaker,” he wrote.

He also apologized to College Republicans, writing that, “they deserved an opportunity to hear their speaker uninterrupted, and were denied it.”

Holtschneider also touched on the campus divide made evident following a day wrought with campus issues, controversy and divisive rhetoric. Earlier Tuesday, markings with the phrase “F— Mexico” were painted on the Quad, which he condemned as hate speech.

Prior to Yiannopoulos’ appearance, about 100 students took to the Quad to discuss their grievances about how the university has handled this tension. Several said DePaul had failed to address ongoing hate speech on campus, especially following April’s chalking in which “Build a Wall” and “Blue Lives Matter” were written.

Holtschneider praised protesters who were “working to calm each other, and at times, even hold people back from hasty decisions,” and “understood that protests only work when people conduct themselves honorably.”

Going forward, he said, Student Affairs will be reaching out to students on all sides of the issue.

“We at DePaul have some reflecting and sorting out to do,” he wrote. “I’ve asked (Student Affairs) to reflect on how future events should be staffed so that they proceed without interruption; how protests are to be more effectively assisted and enabled; and how the underlying differences around race, gender and orientation that were made evident in yesterday’s events can be explored in depth in the coming academic year.”