Milo Yiannopoulos postpones visit to UB
Young Americans for Liberty uncertain about working with Yiannopolous again
Last Monday, Daniel Giles, state chair for Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), received a one-sentence email from Milo Yiannopoulos stating he was postponing his visit to UB that was originally scheduled May 9.
Yiannopoulos, a controversial British journalist for conservative American news site Breitbart, did not give a reason as to why he could no longer speak at UB. YAL’s initial announcement that Yiannopoulos would speak at UB faced criticism from some students who felt his visit threatened the university’s safe space.
The Student Association Senate has reclaimed the $759 that they provided to YAL for Yiannopoulos’ visit. Special Interests, Services and Hobbies Council (SISH) has also reclaimed the additional $300 they provided for the event.
“It was effectively severing communications it’s like we’re gonna have to postpone, but our semester’s ending, it’s finals week, there’s nothing we really could do for the duration of summer break now so if he is gonna come, it would have to be next school year and it’s really gonna need to come from him,” said Gary Kenney, YAL vice president.
Kenney said many people have asked them why Yiannopoulos is no longer coming and they are unable to answer this question because he did not provide a reason why he was postponing his visit. Kenney's father flew from New York City to support YAL and see Yiannopoulos.
Matthew Casa, YAL president, and Giles spoke with Yiannopoulos via Skype in late April.
Casa said they spoke to settle logistics and make sure everything was “set and ready to go.”
Yiannopoulos offered to pay for his own plane ticket, which Casa said eased their responsibility of having to reimburse him later on.
“We figured ‘okay everything’s all set to go’ because he is going to pay for the plane ticket so all we had to do was hire security and pay for a few other minor amenities and we would have just been all set to go,” Casa said.
At the time, Yiannopoulos said he was determining whether the University of Toronto wanted to have him speak there since he was coming to Buffalo, according to Casa. Giles had planned to pick Yiannopoulos up and drive him to Buffalo from Toronto.
Yiannopoulos told YAL that they’d hear back from him, but the club members never did until they received his email stating he was postponing his visit.
“At this point we are uncertain if we’re going to continue working with [Yiannopoulos] despite the fact that he’s saying he’s going to postpone which implies that we would be working again, given the stress that was induced upon us,” Casa said.
Yiannopoulos’ communication was “severely unprofessional,” according to Kenney. Casa said his agent was “virtually nonexistent” when they sent him contracts.
“We wanted to do everything we could to make this happen, but as a SA club, we have a set of rules and guidelines and we’ve recently become recognized so with that we weren’t trying to sink any ships,” Kenney said. “We had to stay within the SA guidelines of how this procedure happens.”
Kenney said it was” disappointing and a little aggravating” that Yiannopoulos postponed.
“The problem is that when you work with someone like this, you kind of recognize the potential for this backlash to happen does exist but we were hoping that with the communications we did have that were positive, that we were going to prevail,” he said.
Casa said he initially had “little to no knowledge” of Yiannopoulos prior to arranging his visit.
Casa said YAL was open to having Yiannopoulos speak because of his views on free speech advocacy, a principle he said they were “strongly pushing for” this semester.
He said he felt that Yiannopoulos was gaining a lot of notoriety and YAL members thought it would be an opportunity to garner some attention for the club.
Kenney said Yiannopoulos’ visit started many conversations on campus on the idea of free speech. Yiannopoulos’ speech would have been YAL’s culmination event of the semester, according to Kenney.
“As people who I would say are political activists, who try to promote our organizations’ ideas and ideologies, to find someone like [Yiannopoulos] who holds certain ideas similar to us and to see that people in this field that we are currently in behave this way, we see now where that bad stigma comes from,” Kenney said.
After finding out Yiannopoulos was no longer coming, they pulled all tickets from the SBI ticket office, contacted all YAL members and removed the Facebook event page that stated that he was coming. He said even non-UB students and UB alumni emailed him expressing their excitement for Yiannopoulos’ visit.
Casa said YAL is still open to bringing in other speakers.
“It’s discouraging for me and the rest of my e-board to go through all these measures to try and get Yiannopoulos to come speak and it just kind of ended in us getting kind of shafted really, so you could see why we would be kind of discouraged to bringing another speaker,” Casa said.
He said he hopes that other speakers will be more cooperative. They have spoken to other YAL members and received some suggestions for the next speaker.
Casa said right now YAL is considering having Vermin Supreme, performance artist and activist speak, which he said might seem “completely out of left field.” He said they are also considering having Ben Shapiro, political commentator speak at the university.
“I guess [Supreme] is a free-speech advocate in his own way, he has a bunch of different speeches that we could listen from which all seem pretty entertaining,” Casa said.
Ashley Inkumsah is the co-senior news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org