“The blatant disregard by the PSU Administration over the Milo Yiannopoulos event is unacceptable and proves that they only care about queer lives whenever it’s making them look good on nationally ranked lists of LGBTQIA+ friendly institutions. These lists do not show the horrors and harassment faced by queer individuals daily living in this community,” says Mason Hart, fourth year political science major.
For those who are unaware, far-right political speaker, writer and commentator Milo Yiannopoulos is coming to Penn State to speak at the HUB. His posters are scattered throughout the building, with big bold white letters saying “Pray the Gay Away.” Many students are outraged with the blatant homophobia displayed on campus property.
“I find it completely unsurprising that the university will remove a Fidel Castro quote from the HUB without consulting the PRCC, but will fund a homophobic speaker with a history of making pedophilic rhetoric. It’s also disgusting that UPAC approved a poster for Milo that essentially promotes conversion therapy right underneath a poster advertising that it’s LGBTQ+ history month,” says Lakyn Meeder, fourth year political science major.
Students were caught off guard by the fact that Yiannopoulos has a history of homophobia, anti-feminism and extremely controversial rhetoric. He also has a past of speaking at colleges and sparking violent protests and riots, specifically in schools University of Washington and U.C. Berkeley.
VALLEY reached out to the United Socialists of Penn State, as their discussion on the topic had been circulating around social media.
“By allowing a known homophobe and alleged pedophile to speak on campus at an event organized by a university-sanctioned club and paying him upwards of $20,000 out of the Student Fee, the Penn State administration is once again proving that they only boast about being a “top LGBTQ-friendly school” in order to rake in exorbitant tuition dollars. Eric Barron, Damon Sims, and the rest of the administration are valuing the abstract concept of “free speech” to justify their platforming of Milo Yiannopoulos, a failed far-right internet figure desperate for cash, who is raising money to fund a “conversion therapy” torture chamber in Florida. The decision should be simple – not allow Milo to come and do not pay him, a precedent Eric Barron set himself in 2017. If the university administration will fail in doing this bare minimum, the students of Penn State will take actions into their own hands,” they stated. And, that is exactly what the people are planning on doing.
Different organizations and clubs including the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, the Gender Equity Center and C.A.P.S. have created the event in the Heritage Hall called “Love is Louder” where there will be music, food and activities. It is a peaceful alternative on Nov. 3 for people to support each other and spread love instead of hate. There is also a protest being endorsed by student clubs outside the Thomas Building the same time as Milo’s presentation to stand up to him, as well as Uncensored America – the campus group who organized everything – and the Penn State Administration.
“Milo’s inflammatory language promotes conversion therapy and pedophilia, says Hart. “It therefore constitutes speech with intent to harm, which is not protected under the First Amendment, and thus is unacceptable on a campus that claims to support its marginalized communities. Allowing speech like this to occur on campus is fueling the harassment faced by myself and the rest of the queer community everyday just for existing. If Penn State wishes to support its LGBTQIA+ community, it needs to understand the line between free speech and speech that could lead to psychological and physical trauma for members of their campus community.”
Queer students specifically are disturbed by Penn State claiming to be a top five LGBTQIA+ friendly university and then allowing a speaker who promotes conversion therapy, a violent and traumatizing option many are forced into without consent. These are not ideals students stand by.
Many also are unaware that Yiannopoulos was scheduled to come to Penn State to speak in 2017, and then canceled. President Barron even claimed on Feb. 10, 2017, that we “dodged a bullet,” and his intentions were to tear down the university and create chaos.
“It is our job to keep our peers safe and welcome in our community, and reject hateful speech in this university,” says Adam Kurtz, environmental resource management major. During the chaos of this situation, it is essential to support those who feel threatened or hurt by Yiannopoulos’ ideas and stand up for our friends and fellow students.
VALLEY supports sticking together and protecting each other in these uncertain times filled with hate.