Council Meets Controversy

By May 5, 2011

Associated Students Legislative Council spent the majority of last night’s meeting discussing funding for College Republicans’ proposal to bring controversial speaker David Horowitz to campus.

After being denied funding for the proposed lecture at Monday’s A.S. Finance Board meeting, College Republicans requested that Legislative Council reopen the board’s minutes and allocate $1,770 for the event’s audio-visual, recording and security costs. Horowitz, a noted conservative activist and writer, last visited campus in April 2008 shortly after accusing UCSB’s Muslim Student Association of having political ties with al-Qaeda. Although several members of the Muslim Student Association and general campus community attended the meeting in protest of the group’s request, the council eventually approved $800 to the organization.

As of press time, the council remained in session pending the approval of the A.S. 2011-2012 budget, which faces significant cuts.

President of College Republicans Steven Begakis requested $1,770 for security, audiovisual technology and visual recording for the proposed event. Begakis said the council should allocate funds on the basis of freedom of speech.

“We just want to bring a conservative speaker to represent our minority opinion and promote a diversity of ideas,” Begakis said.

Sophia Armen, a second-year political science and feminist studies major, said the board’s eventual decision to even partially fund the event reflected poorly on the student government.

“Our association does not look good right now in the eyes of the average student,” Armen said. “I just want you to understand … what isolating communities really means. You’d better have communities on this campus’ back, because it’s your job. Not just because it’s your job — because it’s your moral responsibility.”

Andres Rey, a second-year political science major, said denying funding for the event would be a violation of a citizen’s First Amendment rights.

“That’s freedom of speech: the ability for you to speak,” Rey said. “I think it’s a very important step that the council approves the security for funding because you are denying the vehicle for someone to speak.”

While On-Campus Representative Danielle Stevens objected that Horowitz’s views transcended the divide between free speech and hate speech, Rey said the speaker’s words are not inflammatory enough to be censored by the association.

“The definition of hate speech … it has to be directly linked to a violent act,” Rey said. “You have to prove it incites direct acts of hatred and I think that’s something you can’t prove.”

However, College Republicans Vice President Matt Borasi said the campus has the duty of providing students a space where all voices can be heard.

“Do I agree with everything that Daniel Horowitz said? No,” Borasi said. “What I do agree with is the open forum the university stands for.”

Muslim Student Association member Ahmed Naguib, however, said the Muslim community is underrepresented on campus and is unwilling to tolerate further discrimination.

“There’s 200 or 300 of us on campus. We really fly under the radar,” Naguib said. “But, believe it or not, this is something that really affects us.”

Finance Board Chair Katie Lieberknecht said the board declined to allocate any funds to College Republicans on Monday as, according to A.S. Legal Code, the association cannot deny funding to events on the basis of offensive content.

“You need to base this not on the context of the event but on the event itself,” Lieberknecht said. “You really need to look at the policies and procedures of what can and can’t be funded.”

According to Internal Vice President Jake Elwood, California state law requires that the UC Regents not deny funding to events based on their content.

“If we pass the finance board minutes,” Elwood said, “we will be sued by David Horowitz.”

On April 14, 2008, the Daily Nexus printed an advertisement paid for by the Horowitz Freedom Center, advocating against the Muslim Students Association and accusing it of being a “Campus Front Group For Jihad.”

“The MSA is a radical political group that was founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the godfather of al Qaeda and Hamas, to bring the jihad into the heart of American higher education,” the ad read.

Nick Dürnhöfer, editor in chief of the Nexus in 2008, said the editorial section of the newspaper cannot execute agency over the advertising section.

“I didn’t see that ad before it ran in the Nexus — I don’t see any ad that goes in there,” Dürnhöfer said. “I’m not going to let a newspaper get biased in that way by picking and choosing advertisers … When you start thinking that way, you can’t really do you job as an editor.”

Following a lengthy debate, the board swiftly approved a motion to allocate $1,100 for the event. However, according to Stryker, confusion arose among the representatives as to what the motion they passed entailed as it followed a string of stipulations and modifications.

“When the amendment is friendly with the person that made the original motion, then that amendment becomes the new motion,” Stryker said. “So when we passed it, we passed that motion. I guess a few got confused and thought we just passed that motion. People that wanted to vote didn’t understand what was going on and thought it was just to pass that amendment.”

The result was met with outrage from the audience, as individuals shouted “You are sponsoring Islamophobia and racism on this campus,” and “Who on this board is representing the Muslim community?”

Considering the murky circumstances under which the resolution had been passed, the council moved to amend the allotted amount to $732, providing funding for only police officers.

On-Campus Representative Joseph Lee said the council was overstepping in bounds by reopening the discussion.

“What happened to the whole point of transparency of this council?” Lee said. “We’re already not doing our jobs and paying attention to what’s going on and just because we admitted to making a mistake that doesn’t mean we get to reconsider something we all passed through consent.”

The council eventually modified the amount to $800.

Additionally, Lee presented an apology for his recent incarceration. He spent five days in Santa Barbara County jail in relation to a stolen laptop and, after pleading not guilty at his arraignment on Tuesday, is set to appear in court on May 18.

“My mistakes have brought disappointment and frustration to both my student constituents and my peers,” Lee said. “I am ashamed and I fully regret this situation.”

Lee said he felt the incident was isolated within his personal life and would not affect his ability to perform his job.

“I’m going to do my best to continue to perform to the best of my best in leg council to the students that represented me,” Lee said. “This matter solely matters to me.”

Schools: University of California, Santa Barbara Cases: University of California, Santa Barbara: Viewpoint Discrimination in Student Activity Funding