Consider this scenario: your student fee dollars are used to bring a political firebrand who has a history of using hateful, sexist and literally anti-Semitic rhetoric to campus.
You might be thinking that I am referring to Dennis Prager’s visit to the Education Auditorium last semester, however you would be incorrect. I am indeed referring to the case of our student fee dollars going towards Trevor Noah’s planned performance here at UW.
In case you were not aware, aside from his repetitive expressions of hate he makes against those who he disagrees with politically in the guise of “comedy,” Noah has made anti-Semitic and blatantly sexist remarks on Twitter in the past. Those tweets were derogatory towards Jewish people and expressed vulgar implications about women. If he was a conservative, leftists on our campus would be hard at work arranging another protest page, calling him anti-Semitic (this time correctly so).
Understand this- I have no problem at all with Noah speaking here. I might think him to be an overrated comedian who ultimately relies too heavily on “Trump is evil” shticks like all late-night hosts. I might disagree with nearly all of his political views fervently. However, I do not believe that he should be disinvited based on my disagreements with him, nor for those past sexist and anti-Semitic tweets- no matter how undeniably tasteless and awful they were. They very well might not represent who he is as a person today.
There are enough students at UW who are interested in attending his performance that it makes sense to have him perform here, just as was the case with Prager. I stand by what I supported during the Prager controversy- the university as being the marketplace of ideas. That includes even ideas and people with whom I disagree. Just because I disagree with someone does not provide me the right to attempt to bar their free speech.
Those protesting Mr. Prager claimed the crux of their protest was that student fee dollars ought not go towards performers or speakers who say controversial or hateful things. The debate team asserted that only speakers whose content is educationally enriching and not hateful ought to be brought to campus at the expense of student fee money. That all speakers who allegedly do not fit those criteria should not be allowed.
This is an opportunity for those peaceful protesters to prove that they truly were only demonstrating for that aforementioned principle about student fees. If they would fail to demonstrate this, they would prove that their protest was based purely on politics, not principle. They would prove that they have a double standard and lack consistency.
One likely response to this is “Trevor Noah isn’t controversial! He’s mainstream!” To which I respond with this- you prove my point exactly. Who is to determine who is controversial? Is someone controversial simply because you disagree with them? Because they say things with which you disagree? Because they say things you hate or find offensive? In the case of the protesters and the debate team, they claimed that Prager was controversial. You could easily make the case for Noah. But in both cases- in both cases- both Prager AND Noah should be allowed on campus. Let Prager speak. Let Noah speak.
Diversity of opinions needs to be respected on our campus.