OPINION: UC Davis Chancellor Trained in Freedom of Expression, Diversity of Thought and Inclusion

Last week, the Globe reported on Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, who was invited by the local TPUSA chapter to speak at UC Davis on March 14. Ahead of his speech, the Sacramento Bee published an inflammatory article bee assistant Hannah Holzer, in which she said, “Another fascist speaker is coming to UC Davis” and stated that Charlie Kirk openly called for the lynching of transgender people. Holzer posted the same statement on Twitter and then deleted it. The Sacramento Bee changed the original article, first saying, “An earlier version of this column contained a reference to transgender people, which Charlie Kirk vehemently denied. His denial was added to the column.” In the end, the Bee apologized.

To make things worse, UC Davis President Gary S. May added fuel to the fire, rather than calling for calm and adult behavior, in a video he posted ahead of the event:

Charlie Kirk vehemently denied ever making a lynching allegation and announced that he could sue the Sacramento Bee for defamation.

The Globe was contacted by numerous UC Davis alumni expressing distaste for the chancellor in particular, as well as students who tried to shut down the TPUSA/Charlie Kirk event. One of the alumni, who is also a UC Davis staff member, submitted a thoughtful written article to the Globe but asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

Here is the op ed:

UC Davis Chancellor Trained in Freedom of Expression, Diversity of Thought and Inclusion

On March 14, UC Davis released a statement “Controversial, student event proceeding as planned” referring to an event hosted by Turning Point USA at UC Davis. It’s a suspicious headline given that the bulletin says the officer was injured when he was jumped from behind and pushed to the ground, windows were smashed and buildings were vandalized by protesters.

But as an employee and a former student, this did not surprise me. It was expected. The familiar condemnation of hate and violence only applies to certain groups at the university, as does the inclusion version of the manual.

What was most egregious was the contrast between Speaker Charlie Kirk and the Chancellor regarding their views on freedom of expression, recognition of diversity of thought, and inclusiveness. Prior to the event, the Chancellor circulated a video urging students and staff not to attend the event, unlike Charlie Kirk, who favored people with opposing beliefs to come to the front of the line and ask questions. The chancellor filled his video with derogatory remarks, calling the speaker hateful, disgusting, divisive and violent. Similar language was included in an opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee, but the paper later issued an apology to correct the misleading claims.

Chancellor May should do the same.

I would advise others to watch this event online to see the discrepancy between the Chancellor’s message and the reality of what happened at the event. This is shocking. What I heard was a refreshing exchange of ideas, many of which I agreed with and others that helped me understand different points of view. The comments and discussions were respectful, and the intent seemed genuinely focused on helping others. Despite the chancellor’s statements, there were no calls for violence. Instead, the speaker ended the event with a call to keep the peace and not get into conflict with the exit protesters.

I left the experience with some important questions. Who was the purveyor of hatred and intolerance? Why would the chancellor and others on campus go so far as to portray the speaker as a villain? Why would he encourage an empty room instead of a fruitful discussion? Why didn’t he mention that while some expressed concern about the event, others were delighted with the viewpoint presented? Why was the approach and outcome so different when Chancellor May came forward with his controversial speaker, Ibram X. Candy, calling for active discrimination?

It’s no coincidence that Chancellor May talks about freedom. expression at the university, he describes it as “something we must support”, rather than noting that the exchange of ideas is at the heart of student growth, strength, and success. When we listen, especially when we disagree, we begin to realize that we have more in common than others would like us to think, and that together we can accomplish more than we could individually. This hatred can be extinguished when we listen and try to understand each other.

The opportunity to hear new points of view and ideas is what attracted me to work at the university in the first place. Unfortunately, this is not what exists in the illiberal and divisive milieu that exists today at UC Davis.

Clearly, Chancellor May’s vision of inclusion and the fight against hate does not apply to everyone at the university. Take, for example, the threats received by the students who organized this event. Imagine how other like-minded or even open-minded students felt about attending the event after hearing the chancellor’s remarks in his video.

I consider myself one of those open-minded people, so when the chancellor says, “Like Aggie, we are,” I can’t help but agree.

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