After ironing out discrepancies with event coordinators, the UC Irvine College Republicans plan to welcome back right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos as a speaker next year.
The university rejected the club’s original request to use the Pacific Ballroom to host Yiannopoulos and, at a separate event, conservative talk show host Dennis Prager.
However, in an Oct. 3 letter to UCI administrators, Freedom X — a nonprofit law firm serving the conservative community — stated that such restrictions raised “serious 1st Amendment concerns.”
A solution was reached after university event coordinators and police met with club representatives and Bill Becker, president and chief counsel of Freedom X.
Becker, who wrote the letter to the administration, said that university police Lt. Anthony Frisbee explained the possible safety risks involved with hosting a controversial speaker in the Pacific Ballroom.
UCI’s administrative procedures include a major events policy that requires thorough security assessments for any event request, said campus spokesman Tom Vasich.
“We look at previous activities surrounding events and surrounding the speaker,” he said. “We kind of plan to say, ‘If similar things happen here, what will we do?’ … In some cases, we don’t want those things to happen here.”
Although Yiannopoulos’ appearances at UC Berkeley and Cal State Fullerton last year led to loud protests and arrests, his previous events at UCI have been far tamer. In June 2016, UCI saw a small group of protesters, but his second visit that October was more peaceful.
Rather than the Pacific Ballroom, which seats 800, UCI offered to let the Republican club use the Bren Events Center, which seats 5,000, at the same cost.
“We felt it was a win-win, and that the university understood our needs and our demands, and were cooperative in working it out with us,” Becker said.
He added that while it’s “unfortunate” that the club had to retain Freedom X to resolve the matter, members welcomed a resolution without litigation.
Kimo Gandall, president of the College Republicans, said that Yiannopoulos plans to speak in the spring quarter, though no date is set yet. Prager is scheduled to speak Feb. 5.
“Think of our speaking strategy this year as an essay — Milo is the hook,” Gandall said. “When Milo speaks, people come out who were not interested in politics before and now are.”
Gandall said Prager’s speech will cover a “more intellectual side” and provide the “philosophy” behind values that the College Republicans support.