An Open Letter Against Bigotry

An Open Letter Against Bigotry

Graduate Assistants United (GAU), the labor union representing graduate assistants at the Florida State University (FSU), strongly condemns the scheduled appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos on our campus and finds it to be in direct contradiction to the University’s goals of creating an environment free from discrimination. Yiannopoulos, who was invited to speak by the FSU College Republicans, a Registered Student Organization at FSU, has a well documented history of racial discrimination and abuse targeted toward women, Muslims, and people of color, along with many other minority groups. He has actively encouraged harassment of vulnerable people, and his presence here can only amplify the hatred he enjoys instilling and inflaming in others.

GAU fully supports the constitutional right to free speech, and recognizes that it does not end at the campus border. There is a critical difference, however, between defending that right and providing a platform that amplifies hate speech, as this event will. Yiannopoulos’ actions, by championing bigotry and intolerance, help put real people in real danger. We need only turn on the news to see the devastating consequences of ignorance, racism, sexism, and Islamophobia.

Yiannopoulos’ right to speak these hateful, inaccurate things is not in question. We question whether we can truly say that our campus champions the ideals of strength, knowledge, and character when it amplifies the voice of someone so hateful and damaging to the social fabric of our community. FSU not only supports safe spaces, which Yiannopoulos condemns, but claims to provide a campus free from discrimination. How can we believe that claim when it offers a platform to someone who openly advocates for the harassment of Muslims, women, and people of color?

As graduate assistants, we are students, teachers, and researchers. We work diligently every day to support the principle values of the University, and to create a space where all can study and work without fear that their race, religion, or gender will be used against them. The appearance of Yiannopoulos on our campus is in direct contradiction to those goals.

As members of the university community, we champion rhetoric founded in reason, logic, and respect for the dignity of all persons. The views that have made Yiannopoulos such a controversial public figure are not based in fact; they are ignorant and misguided relics from an oppressive past that we continually struggle to leave behind us – not in darkness, but in solemnity. Yiannopoulos’ rhetoric attempts to preserve and legitimize a cultural legacy of prejudice that we fundamentally reject.

This is not the first time the FSU community has faced an ethical dilemma about which voices should be privileged and which values deserve our time and attention. More may follow. But so long as people of conscience come together to speak out against bigotry and intolerance, we can always hope to achieve a better future. We turn our backs on hatred and instead embrace the diversity among us with open arms, open minds, and open hearts. We call on all members of the FSU community, including President Thrasher and Student Body President Nathan Molina, to condemn the discriminatory rhetoric of Yiannopoulos, and to take immediate action to support their commitment to a campus free from the kind of discrimination he endorses.

In solidarity,

The Executive Committee of Graduate Assistants United:
Matt Dauphin, President
Adela Ghadimi, Executive Vice-President
Wayne Reed, Vice-President of Membership
Ryan Learn, Treasurer
Rachel McCleery, Grievance Officer
Ryan Groom, Secretary
Chris Segal, Political Action Chair
Jeanette Lehn, University Action Chair
Cristina Carter, Diversity Chair
Kimberly Tate Anderson, Chief Negotiator and Bargaining Chair
Daniel Tompkins, Organizing Chair

(For a PDF copy of this statement, click here.)

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