UNM President suspends event fee for controversial guest speaker


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Milo Yiannopoulos is a controversial conservative writer who draws crowds and protesters wherever he speaks; and this weekend he’ll be at the University of New Mexico.

The right-wing activist isn’t shy when it comes to speaking his mind. He was even banned from Twitter for his abusive comments.

But, Marina Herrera, president of UNM College Republicans said it’s all about free speech.

“We wanted to bring Milo here and allow him to have a platform to speak on these more conservative viewpoints that students might not be able to hear in their classes,” Herrera said.

Yiannopoulos, who’s openly gay, even uses a derogatory term in the title of his speaking tour. He has two more stops before he gets to Albuquerque.

“Students applaud us for being so daring to bring such a controversial speaker to the university,” Herrera said.

But not all students. Several protest groups have already posted to Facebook urging a strong turnout at the event, some even vowing to take over the stage.

The university is beefing up security because it’s expecting nearly 600 people to attend, and that doesn’t include the protesters.

Assistant Professor, Lee Montgomery, said one group came up with an idea for a more peaceful protest compared to what has taken place in other cities. The group, “We Are The Core,” is planning Unity Day at UNM.

“We tried to approach it somewhat differently in the art department and with ‘We Are The Core,'” Montgomery said.

The UNM Art Department is hosting a poster-making event just before the Yiannopoulos event. Then, several people are signed up to read poetry and walk over to the Student Union Building.

“We are saying that we oppose his message, but we are not going to approach it with equal hatred,” Montgomery said. “I think between the poetics and the visual aesthetics, we’re trying to bring a sense of beauty to a notion of protests.”

UNM said like any other student organized event, the College Republicans’ group has to pay a fee to help put on the event.

“Two weeks prior to the event we were slapped with a $3,400 speaking fee of which we were not previously aware of,” Herrera said.

But late Wednesday evening, the university president decided to suspend the $3,400 fee until a policy review, for free speech type events, is conducted. The university released the following statement:

The University of New Mexico is committed to the principles of free speech, and values our role as a marketplace of ideas in the community. Within this context, I have carefully considered the concerns expressed by the Regents in last Friday’s meeting regarding the police and security services policy and how its application may impact free speech on campus. As a result, I am directing the immediate suspension and application of that portion of the policy that results in fees for security and police protection, pending a thorough policy review. – Chaouki Abdallah, Acting UNM President

Herrera wasn’t immediately made aware of the news, but said she just hopes everything goes smoothly Friday night.

“It’s very disappointing to see that students and community members feel the need to bring violence into these protests,” Herrera said. “Rather than listening and engaging civilly, they choose to be violent and we hope that doesn’t happen here at the university.”

The event will take place in the SUB Friday night. Only the first 600 people will get in.

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