On Oct. 9, UCI’s President of College Republicans, Kimo Gandall, and his attorney, Bill Becker, met with UCI’s Events administration to discuss speakers Milo Yiannopoulos and Dennis Prager’s prospective visit to campus.
There had been recent speculation that the College Republicans at UCI (CRUCI) will be inviting controversial media speaker Milo Yiannopoulos this upcoming year. An invitation was also extended to right-wing political commentator and host Dennis Prager. However, UCI event administration rejected the proposal to have Yiannopoulos to speak in the Pacific Ballroom located in the Student Center on campus citing security assessment concerns. Yiannopoulos spoke twice at UCI in 2016, the first visit leading to a year long suspension for the College Republicans due to private security insurance issues.
Gandall states that the reason Yiannopoulos has been invited to come back is to motivate the political atmosphere at UCI.
“The fact of the matter here is that the majority of the population here is not interested in politics. It’s just a statistical fact. Because of that prevalence within the population, we occasionally need to change strategies. A lot of moderate people, a lot of people who wouldn’t be involved in politics otherwise, turn out for Milo,” Gandall said.
The College Republicans released a statement on Oct. 3 on their Facebook with the inquiry of Bill Becker, a civil litigation lawyer from the legal firm, FreedomX. FreedomX is a public interest law firm dedicated to protecting conservative thoughts and freedom of speech.
In the press release posted on the CRUCI’s Facebook, Becker states that UCI administration “indicated, without substantive justification, that venues capable of holding a capacity of 800 people cannot be secured for these events” and that “[the College Republicans] are entitled to receive substantive explanation for why UCI cannot secure their events in the Pacific Ballroom.”
Administration has since stated that they are working with the College Republicans to find an alternative time and place for the event. The Crystal Cove auditorium and the Bren Events Center have been offered as alternative locations, but Gandall claims that these venues will limit his approximate audience size and is “highly disproportionate” to what they are shooting for.
In addition, administration wants the event to occur prior to 5 p.m. This concerns Gandall as most expected attendees are students and the general public, most of which have classes or work, during times before 5 p.m.
“In my view and in the view of my attorney [it is] very concerning, the ability to exercise our First Amendment rights to be used, because [the restriction] not only cuts our audience in half but it cuts our time limits down,” Gandall said.
When Yiannopoulos last spoke on campus, he evoked both protests and security issues. In response, the Cross Cultural Center and the LGBT Resource Center hosted a counter-equality event. This event encouraged students to partake in an open discussion through poetry, feelings, and thoughts about the political misalignment and protests on campus.
The Cross Cultural Center has not yet had a discussion pertaining to the proposed event of Milo Yiannopoulos coming to UCI, but will consider hosting an alternative event when Yiannopoulos visits campus if students would like a community space or an open dialogue.
“If any club or organization follows the required UCI procedures and protocols to host events and bring speakers, then they have the right to organize their event. This is a public campus and free speech is protected as long as it does not incite violence and remains peaceful,” Cross Cultural Center Interim Director Marcela Ramirez-Stapleton said.
Ryan Mikeala Nguyen is a first year, Mathematics major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo credit Roxana Kopetman, OC Register