Amid reports that the “Free Speech Week” event organized by the highly-controversial right-wing personality Milo Yiannopoulos was going to be canceled, the University of California-Berkeley has just announced that it’s moving forward with its plan to spend $1 million to secure the campus for the event.
Yet students say this money is being ill-spent, as the university is going through a difficult budgetary phase.
According to UC-Berkeley’s Associate Vice Chancellor Dan Mogulof, both the university’s police department and “an unprecedented number of allied law enforcement agencies” are working together to prepare for Yiannopoulos’ event, ThinkProgress has reported.
“There is only one reason the University is in the process of spending close to a million dollars on these security arrangements: if these events take place we want them to safe and peaceful,” Mogulof added.
But according to Juan Prieto, a former Berkeley student who now works in the school’s center for undocumented students, the security plan will waste precious resources.
“The university is more concerned with its public image than its student body,” Prieto said.
The school is currently going through serious financial troubles, with a $110 million budget deficit.
In order to meet its budgetary demands, the President of the University of California System Janet Napolitano said, UC-Berkeley must cut $53 million this year alone.
Earlier in July, $25.4 million in budget cuts was ordered by UC-Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ that will affect several departments during the 2018 fiscal year. And still, the school is not going to back down from spending another million on an event that was allegedly organized to troll the university.
“They spent $600,000 to defend hate speech. That’s money that could have gone to students who are housing insecure or skipping meals,” Prieto told reporters.
As food insecurity seems to be growing among college students, this hits close to home for a lot of those who attend Berkeley.
Still, Napolitano told reporters that footing the bill for the event’s security is important.
“It’s a cost that the university is bearing to protect the speakers but also to protect the value of free speech,” she said, calling the event “a test” for the university.
To Katrin Wehrheim, a Berkeley professor of mathematics, the idea that the school can foot this bill while failing to cover for basic necessities from the the day-to-day educational business is absurd.
“It’s completely ridiculous,” Wehrheim told ThinkProgress. “We need the money to feed our students. My office hasn’t been cleaned in years. I have to bring my own batteries after the middle of the semester if I want a microphone. We need money for basic campus services, not to host militarized outsiders.”
While we wait to hear from Yiannopoulos, who claimed he will finally announce if the event will take place or not this Saturday, it’s safe to say that UC-Berkeley doesn’t seem to be putting their own students first.
And if you’re in the business of educating young men and women, making sure the college is functioning properly should be your top priority, not giving students yet more reason to rebel against both the speakers and the school itself.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Flickr user LeWeb14