University Police will “implement robust security and safety operations” at conservative commentator Michael Knowles’ on-campus speech this Thursday “to maintain safety and to protect all parties’ rights to free speech before, during and after the event,” according to UB spokesperson John Della Contrada.
Police will maintain a “significant” presence inside and outside Slee Hall, where Knowles is slated to speak. Attendees will have to pass through security checks and be wanded.
“Members of the UB community and attendees are reminded to immediately alert UPD to any instance of unlawful conduct, especially those that pose threat to personal and campus safety,” Della Contrada said.
The UB chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, the organization that invited Knowles, has also hired outside security. The group has used approximately $2,544 from their club budget to hire Excelsior Security to staff the event, according to the SA general ledger.
On the event’s ticketing page, YAF states that it will enforce metal detector screenings and require ticket holders to provide identification to verify entry to Slee Hall. Items such as banners, air horns and signs are prohibited. Any attendees considered “disruptors” will be removed from the event and are “subject to prosecution.”
The Student Life Freedom of Assembly Support Team (FAST) will also be present for students and faculty who wish to attend. The FAST team is a committee of university staff who support “students at activist events as they learn how to be agents of positive social change.”
Knowles drew national criticism after saying that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely” in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday.
Knowles was originally scheduled to appear at UB on April 26, 2022, but the event was postponed. At the time, Connor Ogrydziak, then-acting president of the UB’s YAF chapter, told The Spectrum that the club postponed the speech because of a “need to hire security outside of the university,” among other factors.
Knowles’ speech comes 11 months after former congressman and conservative commentator Allen West delivered a speech titled “America is not Racist” in the Student Union. UPD had an “increased presence” at West’s speech following Yik Yak posts that threatened violence against student protestors. UPD later investigated three counts of harassment related to the event.
UPD is asking that attendees notify them of any threats or harm to personal or campus safety. UPD can be reached at (716) 673-333 for all campus-related emergencies.
Morgan Ross is an assistant news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Morgan Ross is an assistant news/features editor.