Yesterday I described in detail how University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) has been struggling to deny the obvious: Student government officials completely denied funding for $2,000 for a David Horowitz event sponsored by the College Republicans (CRs) earlier this year because of opposition to his views and expression, while a second group of student government officials voted to hide the evidence by suppressing the minutes of the meeting and also engaged in viewpoint discrimination to deny much of the funding for the event.
The CRs had requested $1,770, and after a lot of strong denunciations of Horowitz’s views and expression, the second student government body voted to allocate $1,100 for the event. But after the audience erupted in complaints, this body revisited the question and allocated only $800. Under pressure from FIRE, the UCSB administration stepped in and made sure that the CRs received $1,800, although it was very hard to figure out how UCSB had done the transactions until UCSB released a key document on October 6.
Those are the facts; alternative accounts are undocumented at best and lies at worst. A couple of the lies made it into the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday.
Last week, UCSB student newspaper The Daily Nexus published its own whitewash on some points, although it acknowledged many of the key facts, including the intervention of UCSB administrator Katya Armistead, Director of the Office of Student Life. A bunch of the misrepresentations in the article seem to be uncritical quotations of university officials, and some of them seem to be due to imprecise writing. Some of the themes in the article, however, are so misleading (or plainly incorrect) that they need to be addressed here.
As an initial matter, I should note that the main writer of the article, Katherine Friedman, left me a single voice mail at 7:44 pm (far after East Coast business hours) supposedly to get my comment on Tuesday, October 18. (FIRE’s website made it clear that I would be out of the office on October 19 giving lectures in Texas.) She apparently did not try again, and the article appeared on October 20.
As for the substance of the article, perhaps the most serious mistake was the uncritical acceptance of the idea that a "safety" rationale for denial of funding the event had merit:
Though several students verbalized serious concerns for their personal wellbeing given Horowitz’s potential to incite violence, FIRE’s most recent statement mentioned only one such comment.
As I wrote at the time, however, the "incitement" argument and the "I feel unsafe" argument have no merit in a situation like this. "Incitement" is about inspiring people who agree with you to join you in some unlawful act. If people are inspired to violence against David Horowitz or others because they hate what David Horowitz has to say, that makes David Horowitz and those others the victims of a mob. And as for safety, I wrote:
In fact, if anybody might become violent because of Horowitz’s speech, it is one or more of his critics. As one person named Ahmed [Mostafa] said at the meeting:
Ahmed: If this is funded, whatever is incited from this is on the Council’ hands. Reads quote from David about what wearing a headscarf means. I don’t want to endanger students and I don’t want my student fees to fund that endangerment. There have been many things that have been against law and we may need to take a stance and be put on the line.
Rachel: We can tell by the atmosphere of this meeting we are going to need the security [...]
But it is unconstitutional to lay the burden for others’ violent conduct at the hands of the controversial speaker. As FIRE’s letter to Chancellor Henry T. Yang pointed out, such a "heckler’s veto" would mean that the most intolerant, violent people in the community get to decide which speech will take place on campus, simply by threatening violence and interfering with an event and causing the speaker to have to pay for security to keep the violent protesters under control.
Next, we should address the bellyaching from UCSB Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Young.
"The problem with FIRE is they wanted controversy where there is none, so they’re trying to create one," Young said. "This had been resolved before FIRE got into it; they’re just trying to create a situation where none exists.
This is plainly false. There was no controversy? Good luck persuading a single rational person on campus that David Horowitz’ speech wasn’t controversial among student organizations and in the student government, as reported multiple times by several Daily Nexus journalists. The Daily Nexus sure thought there was a funding controversy at the time. Why is Katherine Friedman throwing her fellow student journalists under the bus?
And as for the timing of events:
- May 4: Associated Students Legislative Council (ASLC) engages in viewpoint discrimination and votes to hide the evidence of the previous viewpoint discrimination by the Associated Students Finance Board (FB).
- May 6: FIRE writes UCSB chancellor Yang about the discrimination.
- May 20: UCSB Campus Counsel Nancy Greenan Hamill replies to FIRE, incorrectly claiming that the FB’s viewpoint discrimination did not actually happen, against what just about everyone now agrees is the truth.
- May 26: UCSB Special Projects Coordinator Barbra Ortiz documents that the university chose to allocate $1,800 of UCSB’s "After Dark" funds for the Horowitz event. (Again, FIRE was not made aware of this until October.)
- June 7: $1,800 is finally placed in the account of the College Republicans, coincidentally on the same day that FIRE faxed a second letter to Chancellor Yang.
FIRE’s website thoroughly documents what really happened. So, I hope people will take Young’s advice when he said about FIRE:
They have a political agenda and that’s what they’re playing out. Go to their website and see their agenda.
Please, go to our website and see that our completely nonpartisan mission is to support and defend the fundamental rights of students and faculty members at our nation’s colleges. You can see the wide range of cases we have taken to defend free speech at UCSB alone. Our website is also where you can find the facts about each case and read them for yourself.
It is also where you can find all of the quotations that FIRE used in our press release and letters, and you will see, in contrast to the allegations by The Daily Nexus, that the relevant quotes are many and they were not taken "out of context." We could have used many more quotes as well.
FIRE did not need to rely on Daily Nexus articles, but they were consistent with the actual minutes from the meetings. That’s called good journalism. Yet, Katherine Friedman’s so-called journalism here says that FIRE supported our claims "by manipulating selective content from a Nexus article regarding the meeting." What is quite comical in Friedman’s article is that she goes on to suggest that, no, the audience outrage over the $1,100 allocation was nothing special, since the audience had been expressing outrage the whole time:
While much of crowd expressed frustration — even outrage — at the first allocation, FIRE failed to mention that they had done so throughout much of the meeting, both at the podium during Public Forum and from the seats where many held anti-Islamophobia signs.
I really do not think this evocation of the scene helps Friedman’s argument very much, particularly when the minutes of the meeting show quite a lot of frustration and outrage among the FB members who voted down the allocation.
In sum, we have a bunch of lies and misrepresentations and a piece of "journalism" that is mixed with editorializing and false insinuations. Nice try, Daily Nexus. Too bad the facts are against you.