Posters promoting gay conservative’s visit raise sensitivity concerns at UCI
After the College Republicans at UC Irvine and a chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty put up event posters on campus containing controversial language, the university’s Office of Inclusive Excellence encouraged students, staff members and faculty to attend “Safe Zone” workshops intended to guide people on how to support the LGBT community.
Posters promoting an event featuring Breitbart.com technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos contained statements the gay conservative has made, including “Make America gay again” and the name of his current college tour, “The Dangerous F-----,” which includes a pejorative term for homosexuals.
The event, promoted in the posters for May 24, has been rescheduled to June 2.
College Republicans President Ariana Rowlands said Yiannopoulos is known for being humorous and provocative.
Members of the club made the posters, and Young Americans for Liberty helped put them on campus bridges and other areas May 4, Rowlands said.
The posters were gone the next day, according to Rowlands, who said she suspects other students took them down.
“We invited [Yiannopoulos] because political correctness runs rampant here,” said Rowlands, a business information management student. “The university’s primary purpose is to educate and enrich the mind, but instead it’s become a day-care center for overly sensitive students.”
At the upcoming event, the College Republicans plan to have Yiannopoulos provide a critique of topics such as free speech, the gender wage gap and “micro aggressions,” or everyday language and actions that some may consider insulting or dismissive.
Douglas Haynes, vice provost of academic equity, diversity and inclusion at UCI, said several students and faculty members informed him of the language on the posters.
On May 9, Haynes issued a campuswide communication through the Office of Inclusive Excellence stating that “bigotry has no place here or anywhere” and that utilizing Safe Zone training offered by the university’s LGBT Resource Center is one way to strengthen the school community.
“No one from my office was attempting to stop students from exercising free speech,” Haynes said. “We merely pointed out that the use of free speech [in the posters] did not reflect the values that are important to this campus.”
“Conservative values are often misrepresented by the media, but a lot of people who come out to our meetings end up being surprised that they agree on a certain economic policy or they realize [the party] is not what it seems,” Rowlands said.
Safe Zone training is free to UCI students, staff and faculty. The workshops, which the LGBT Resource Center has provided for more than 10 years, consist of two two-hour sessions where people learn the definitions of terms such as transgender and the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. They also listen to a panel of individuals who identify as LGBT and learn how to be their ally.
“The favorite part is the panel for the majority of people, because it helps them understand the experience,” center director Davidian Bishop said.
Bishop said the Yiannopoulos event posters could make “those who might be on the cusp of coming out or gathering the courage to be out and visible on campus ... reconsider after seeing the subtext of threat in a sentence that uses the pejoratives.”
According to Rowland, the College Republicans club plans to put the posters on campus again this week. Some will have the same language as the previous posters.
“We respect that people have different ideas,” Rowland said. “But instead of tearing the posters down, we encourage them to debate with us and have a discussion.”