A Hoya editorial published last week urging students to invite Milo Yiannopoulos to Georgetown has provoked strong reactions from students and alumni.
In response to the riots at UC Berkeley, Hoya writer Alan Chen (COL ’18) urged fellow students to invite Milo to Georgetown. Although he identified Yiannopoulos as a “divisive right-wing provocateur,” Chen stated that this invitation would answer “once and for all, a fundamental open question about our university’s commitment to free speech.”
The editorial cites a number of incidents on Georgetown’s campus in which the university’s commitment to freedom of speech has been questioned.
In Spring 2015, controversy erupted when Georgetown College Republicans’ invitation to Christina Hoff Sommers was met with protests. The following year an event with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards met similar outcries. This year alone has seen debates over free speech regarding pro-life and pro-Trump messages displayed on campus.
In response to these controversies, Chen offers two alternatives for Georgetown: either create an environment of open debate and intellectual freedom, or “shield and support the prevailing conception of social justice.”
Ultimately, Chen argues in favor of encouraging all types of free speech, including controversial speakers, at Georgetown.
Many Hoyas openly praised the editorial including Georgetown Law student Sara Ainsworth.
“It is in Georgetown students’ best interest that the University invite speakers who will open up a dialogue about the plethora of political issues that we are facing, viewed from diverse positions, instead of inviting someone who seeks only to magnify our divisions,” Ainsworth said.
Other students disagreed with the idea of inviting Milo to campus.
Dylan Hughes (COL ’19) argued that he would add very little to the political discourse on campus.
“Milo may or may not represent hate speech, but he certainly doesn’t add anything of value to the conversation,” said Hughes. “Inviting him to campus would just be stirring controversy for no productive end.”
Kristin Ronzi, a recent Georgetown alumni, said that Georgetown cannot support this kind of divisive rhetoric.
“[Milo] has a transphobic, misogynist, racist past and is unapologetic about it,” Ronzi said. “Having the university invite him and (probably) pay him would be giving him a larger platform to spread his vitriolic rhetoric.”
In his article, Chen urged three specific organizations to extend an invitation–the College Democrats, the College Republicans and the Lecture Fund.
Georgetown University College Republicans president Allie Williams condemned the violence at UC Berkeley but said the organization has no plans to invite Milo to campus.
“We strongly condemn the violence and intolerance which occurred at UC Berkeley last week, and hope that in the future, as we invite conservative speakers on campus, they will be treated with respect and allowed the opportunity to voice their opinions,” said Williams. “Currently, we do not have a plan to invite Yiannopoulos to campus.”
Meredith Forsyth, spokesperson for GUCD, said that the organization also does not intend to invite Milo to Georgetown.
“We feel that doing so would be both unproductive in stimulating real, constructive dialogue and, moreover, would go against our values as an inclusive, progressive organization situated within a Jesuit institution,” Forsyth said.
Despite some controversy, Chen said that reactions have been generally substantive.
“Some reactions’ vitriol towards the argument I presented, especially online, simply reaffirm the need for a test of our commitment to our fellow students’ free speech.”