Milo Yiannopoulos, journalist and fringe internet icon, is set to speak in Laurie Auditorium this Sunday, April 10 at 6 p.m. The event is organized by Tigers for Liberty, a new organization for conservative and libertarian-minded students.
Yiannopoulos will lecture on the topic of microaggressions for 20 minutes followed by a 40 minute question and answer period.
The term “microaggression,” explained in a 2007 psychology paper, Columbia professor Derald Sue to mean “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”
The event is advertised as a response to an event held last month on microaggressions by the Trinity Progressives, Black Student Union and Trinity Diversity Connection.
Initially, the event was created as a debate over the topic of feminism with Sheryl Tynes, associate vice president for academic affairs. Tynes had a prior time commitment and had to cancel.
Manfred Wendt, the president of the Tigers for Liberty, and Jonah Wendt, its vice president, shifted the topic to microaggressions, following the past lecture held last month.
“At a liberal arts institution, you’re supposed to encounter ideas that are controversial and contradict your own. Milo is a big juicy steak of that for the average college student. [Students] should go because they’ll encounter a different opinion than theirs. But it’s really well informed and might actually change their opinion. The Progressives gave their story and now we’re going to give our story,” Manfred said.
Who is Yiannopoulos?
Vox describes Yiannopoulos in an article published on April 4 by Zack Beauchamp, as an “internet troll extraordinaire.” Yiannopoulos has worked as a journalist since dropping out of college in the early 2000s and founding the Kernel, an online tabloid magazine. When he sold the Kernel in 2014, Yiannopoulos was hired by Brietbart, a right-wing online news and commentary outlet.
Yiannopoulos is best known for his contributions to the Gamergate controversy in late 2014. During the Gamergate scandal a number of video gamers argued that video game developers and press engaged in unethical journalistic practices together. Two women were targeted during this controversy; Zoe Quinn (indie game developer) and Anita Sarkeesian (feminist game critic). Quinn and Sarkeesian received threats online including rape and death threats.
Yiannopoulos argued that Quinn and Sarkeesian were not victims of Gamergate but bullies. He wrote a column for Breitbart in September 2014 titled “Feminist Bullies Tearing the Video Game Industry Apart.”
Throughout the controversy, Yiannopoulos wrote many pro-Gamergate columns and tweets which made him a face for the pro-Gamergate movement.
After the Gamergate controversy, Yiannopoulos has become an icon for many on the Internet as a Donald Trump supporter with over 200,000 Twitter followers. Yiannopoulos caused controversy when declared his birthday “World Patriarchy Day” and encouraged his followers to “cat-call at least five women,” and refer to female employees “exclusively as darling.” Many of his Twitter followers refer to him as “Daddy.”
The Online Controversy
The event initially caused controversy on Trinity’s campus through a series of articles published online.
Manfred and Jonah said that the articles were not fully accurate.
“We talked to people writing articles and they said, ‘That sounds like censorship we’re going to go write an article about it,’ and we were like, ‘Okay, go have fun.’ It’s a news article that’s what they think happened. They’re welcome to their own opinions,” Jonah said.
The initial article published on March 29 by Breitbart, an online publication where Yiannopoulos is currently the tech editor.
The article claimed that Trinity University made attempts to censor Yiannopoulos’ upcoming visit to campus through “unusual restrictions” including a security fee of $1,600 with eight university officers required to be present.
According to Sharon Schweitzer, assistant vice president for external relations, security for events in Laurie Auditorium is standard protocol.
“All events that are booked in Laurie Auditorium are required to have security. That’s a standard protocol for an auditorium that seats 2,700 people. It doesn’t matter who books the auditorium or what student group it is — that’s a standard protocol. We can’t waive this because it’s a vital security issue. It ensures that people who come to the event have the best possible experience,” Schweitzer said.
The event in Laurie Auditorium is held on a Sunday, which is classified as non-normal business hours. Laurie Auditorium also requires more security than other venues.
“Apparently when there’s an event in Laurie, you’re supposed to apply for student government funding, and often times that funding will automatically cover the cost of security. We were never informed of that until Nick Santulli commented on the Facebook event and said that we need student government funding,” Jonah said.
Nick Santulli, the co-president of the Trinity Progressives, explained the funding process to them.
“On the Facebook group they were describing how they couldn’t get any funding from the school and that they had to resort to the Go Fund Me page. I explained the process to them and told them that it’s really easy. You just have to submit a budget request to the finance committee of SGA,” Santulli said.
The Hypeline article also wrote that, “Trinity University students pay $150 per semester in student service fees which are intended for use by clubs like the Tigers for Liberty. In the 2014-2015 school year, Trinity University’s finance committee granted $4,142.62 in funding to the Trinity Progressives, the most of any student organization on campus.”
“First of all, we did get over $4,000 during 2014-2015. That’s not the most of any organization. A lot of organizations receive much more funding than that. There are eight university sponsored organizations that receive more funds than that. Just because we received $4,000 in funding doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t receive just as much or more if they went through the same process,” Santulli said.
To be approved by the Student Government Association, events must meet certain requirements, according to Shivani Parmar, SGA vice president.
“With the funding request form it asks how it benefits the entire community because the student activity fee, which is what we’re allocating, is composed of student’s money. We want to make sure that events are open to the entire student body and be beneficial,” Parmar said.
Manfred submitted a funding request last Friday and presented in front of the finance committee on Wednesday. The funding request was denied.
Turning to Crowd Funding
The organizers turned to Go Fund Me, an online crowd funding platform, to raise the funds necessary to reach the security estimate. Tigers for Liberty surpassed their goal of $1,600 last week.
“We weren’t surprised that we raised that much because we know that the internet is kind of awesome. Two 18 year olds asked the internet for $1,600, and it went and came back with more,” Jonah said.
The extra money raised through crowd funding will go towards the Yiannopoulos Privilege Grant, a scholarship that is available to exclusively white men from underprivileged backgrounds.
“Essentially it’s a scholarship that will go to 100 people this year. It’s for white males who come from unprivileged backgrounds, because white males from unprivileged backgrounds don’t qualify for the same scholarships,” Jonah said.
Both articles claimed that the organizers were discouraged from using crowd funding to raise money for the event by Student Involvement.
Esther Kim, coordinator for student programs, declined to comment.
“They went forward and used the crowd funding. A lot of the students that want to use Laurie Auditorium, they know what the protocols are, and they may have already done fund raisers where they have money in the bank. Since this is a fairly new organization, they might not have had the benefit of being up and running for the whole year,”Schweitzer said.
A second article published the same day by Joanna Rodriguez on Hypeline, echoed the same concerns, saying that the students were being censored and treated differently than the Trinity Progressives.
“The students were also asked by the administration not to post any promotional flyers or campaign on social media for the event until every single small detail was dealt with through Student Involvement, despite the auditorium for the event being booked and set to go over a month ago,” Rodriguez said.
The title of Yiannopoulos’ speaking tour is “The Dangerous Faggot Tour.” Schweitzer said the organizers were asked not to use the word “faggot” in promotional materials.
“The speaker has a title for his tour that is inflammatory. They asked them not to use that title for that particular event out of respect for the community values and respect for others. He may use some of the same language and talk about some of the same issues. They agreed to this, they agreed to everything. We started to see all of these articles that had a lot of misinformation,” said Schweitzer.
The Upcoming Event
The event this Sunday is intended to encourage a diversity of opinions through freedom of speech, according to Manfred.Tigers for Liberty hopes to partner with the Progressives in the future.“We definitely would be open to partnering with them depending on the event,” Santulli said.Schweitzer recognized that freedom of speech is important on college campuses.“Our campus is a place where students can expect to encounter many different points of view, even those viewpoints that they may disagree with. We trust the ability of our students to reason, to listen, to speak and to question,” Schweitzer said.
Tigers for Liberty plans to organize more events in the fall related to freedom of speech.“Freedom of speech is the flavor of the season,” said Manfred “We will be having more events about this in the future.”
Yiannopoulos will speak to Trinity students and faculty on April 10 at 6 p.m. in Laurie Auditorium.