Letter to the editor: Student Association allocating money to bring Milo Yiannopoulos to UB is breach of students' safe space

Dear UB Students,

I have let you down. I have recently questioned my role as a senator for the Student Association. I struggle to find a resolution to the cases upon cases of misrepresentation that I have witnessed our senate vote on behalf of the student body. The 20,000 undergrads that we serve have been marginalized to a group of no more than 20 people voting on a 4 million dollar budget. Senators, myself included, have not been given proper training to represent this vast and diverse student body. Due to this large oversight of an educational necessity, I believe that senators have been voting blindly all year. I believe that this has played a role in the domination of the SA Executive Board in every senate meeting. Frankly, whatever the executive board wants, they receive.

Our senate chair, Dillon Smith has written amendments to the constitution to ban SA Executive Board members from our meetings and instead hold joint meetings to discuss senate happenings. However these amendments have gotten stricken down from senators themselves that are scared to speak up when they themselves are trying to “climb the SA ladder” and don’t want to make enemies. SA Senators are elected by you, the student body, to represent them. SA Executive Board Members are elected by you, the student body, to represent them. Between the divide and the lack of education, I can candidly say that senate this year has not acted on the behalf of the student body.

During the SA debate in the student union on Monday, presidential candidate Matthew Rivera talked upon equity. He stressed the importance of equity on UB’s campus and how the SA plays a role in this. This year our SA President Minahil Khan has spearheaded campaigns towards equity. Equity for women, by making all SA Club Eboard Members attend bystander intervention training and annually organizing Elect Her (a conference to encourage women to pursue careers in government and politics). She has also encouraged equity by having open forums upon things that she feels are unfair on behalf of the student body.

This equity is what a public university strives for, SA included. I am speaking for all of the university when I say that if you feel like your equity on campus is being challenged, speak out. Sometimes in the day-to-day challenges of academics we forget about the big picture. You have a voice, we want to hear it.

Senate voted on Monday to give the Young Americans for Liberty $750 to have right wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos come speak at UB. Young Americans for Liberty is an SA temporary club. They are on the “Students for Liberty National Report for 2009-2010”, meaning that they were officially recognized by nationals. It is unclear how long they have been a club at UB without being recognized, but it can be assumed that they were here at least from 2009. Yiannopoulos is a British journalist and founder of the tabloid magazine “The Kernal”. Yiannopoulos challenges the integrity and safe spaces of our University just by the nature of his tour called “The Dangerous Fa**ot Tour”. Yiannopoulos, an openly gay man and member of the LGBTQ community (whether he acknowledges this sentiment or not), on the subject of the trans community has said “We don’t cut off the arms of people who wake up one day and say ‘this arm doesn’t belong to me’, so we shouldn’t warp reality to conform to delusion. We should instead help that person to reconcile their body with their mind.” On the subject of lesbians “They’re just confused lonely old man-haters” and finally on the subject of queer activists “If there is any residual resentment directed at gays these days, it’s not ordinary fags people don’t like. It’s the schoolmarmish bullies of GLAAD and Stonewall and the gay establishment. Frankly, listening to their dreary pronouncements on “cis privilege” makes me want to put on a wifebeater, rent a pick-up truck and beat the living daylights out of the village twink.”

These are just the violent attacks made on the LGBTQ community, but he has also attacked women saying “I went gay so I didn’t have to deal with nutty broads”. This seems to be the very argument that he stands on he says “In the West, women are surging ahead into positions of dominance in the media, the arts, academia, politics, you name it. Some people will find this offensive, but: matriarchy is a problem for the rest of us” and goes on to say “Women will not take men’s places in these disciplines, because there simply aren’t enough women with IQs over 120.”

On the subject of rape culture he completely denies it. Tweeting from his account @nero he is a huge supporter and avid tweeter for the group “Return to Kings”. The leader of Return to Kings believes that making rape legal on private property will decrease incidents of rapes, he says “If rape becomes legal under my proposal, a girl will protect her body in the same manner that she protects her purse and smartphone. If rape becomes legal, a girl will not enter an impaired state of mind where she can’t resist being dragged off to a bedroom with a man who she is unsure of—she’ll scream, yell, or kick at his attempt while bystanders are still around.” This is not what UB stands for.

Yiannopoulos is attacking the progress that we have made as a country in the 21st century. He is denouncing our rights as members of the UB Community to have a safe space on campus. I believe in free speech. Although Yiannopoulos himself believes that “lefts today prefer to shout down and avoid anything it finds inconvenient”, we are not being “inconvenienced” we are being attacked. In the wake of the political dogma today that is spewed at us to “Make America Great Again” I ask you, is it this division what makes America great again? Or is it the very fabric of our constitution that breaths fairness, democracy and inclusion which will make America Great Again? I ask you this because in the midst’s of an election comes propaganda. Yiannopoulos, a trump supporter himself, claims that Trump will “Make America Fabulous Again”. I do not think that it is by any means a coincidence that he is going on a college tour during primaries. I think this is a ploy to politically polarize our school and divide our community.

I will not stand for this division. When Yiannopoulos spoke at Rutgers University there were protests by feminists and black lives matter movements against him speaking. This also happened at the University at Minnesota, and many other Universities that he has spoken at.

We need to unify, we need to speak out when our equity is being taken away, and elected positions need to represent their student body instead of their own political views. The Student Association allocating $750 dollars to have a sexist, racist, transphobic, and homophobic speaker come to UB is in breach of your safe space. Speak out, become educated, and take a stance. Regardless of what your political views are I encourage you to do this as a member of the UB Community and as a student who funded this speaker through your mandatory student fee. Look into leadership positions on campus, become involved, and encourage your friends to speak up. Stop letting people “climb the ladder” for a resume builder or a power trip. If you feel strongly in opposition of Yiannopoulos, help organize rallies against him. We have a seat waiting for you at the table, come sit down and lean in.

Gabrielle Cohen

SA senator