The rumors that Milo Yiannopoulos has been invited to Cal State Bakersfield by the College Republicans are true.
But there’s trouble.
Lawyers are now involved.
William Becker Jr., president and CEO of conservative nonprofit law firm Freedom X, has sent a letter to CSUB officials challenging their handling of the event planning process.
Unless the university approves Yiannopoulos’ speaking engagement on Oct. 25 in the Icardo Center, the letter states, it will have violated the CSUB College Republicans' constitutional rights.
And legal action will follow.
Yiannopoulos is a polarizing conservative activist and former Brietbart editor whose visits to American universities have sparked controversy and violence, most notably a visit to the University of California at Berkeley in February that involved rioting, vandalism, arson and other mayhem.
Becker's letter demands that CSUB officials immediately reverse a decision that the Icardo Center on campus is off-limits for the event due to a “commercial use” policy that states, “Use of university facilities for commercial purposes is restricted.”
CSUB considers it commercial, Becker said, because the College Republicans want to sell tickets to fund the $20,000 speaker's fee.
The university declined to address the letter immediately on Wednesday.
“We have received the letter and are in the process of reviewing it,” said CSUB Director of Public Affairs and Communications Michael Lukens.
Becker writes that former CSUB College Republicans Chairman Jack Thomasy has been working with the university since May and had tentative approval to host Yiannopoulos’ visit.
“Despite this protracted process and the representations made to Thomasy during it concerning the necessary conditions for having the CSUB-CR’s event approved, it wasn’t until very recently, September 8, 2017, that Thomasy was informed the Icardo Center was off-limits for commercial use and that he would need to locate an alternative venue,” the letter states.
That decision has thrown the College Republicans group planning process into turmoil, the letter states, and forces it to absorb Yiannopoulos' $20,000 speaking fee on its own.
In a phone interview, Becker said that the CSUB College Republican group wants to sell tickets to the event to cover the $20,000 speaker fee.
CSUB is calling that a commercial event and saying it can’t be held in the Icardo Center, he said. The College Republicans organization has to keep the event free to the public or find another venue.
A copy of CSUB's facilities use policies obtained by The Californian shows that the university restricts the use of campus facilities for commercial events.
There is no other venue that can hold the event, which has a projected attendance of 1,000, according to CSUB's preliminary event schedule, Becker said.
“What they’re doing is a de facto ban on most public appearances,” he said. “If you can’t charge for public speakers like Milo, you’re never going to get speakers on campus.”
Currently, he said, he is working with Cal State Fullerton to host Yiannopoulos for a Halloween speaking engagement and the university is coordinating the ticketing.
Becker said CSUB has been stringing Thomasy along and has labeled the event commercial because “They know that the College Republicans can’t afford” to pay for the event up-front.
If that decision isn't reversed this week, the letter states, Freedom X will sue CSUB.
A series of hot debates developed on The Californian’s Facebook post about the event.
Some posters accused opponents of trying to block free speech by preventing Yiannopoulos from visiting. Others roundly cheered the man.
Still others pointed to some of his controversial statements and the violence that has followed him as reasons to keep him away from CSUB.
Elizabeth Lewis wrote that she is concerned that Yiannopoulos is known for “outing” LGBTQ, Muslim and immigrant students at events like the ones planned at CSUB.
She is opposed to Yiannopoulos and his tactics, she wrote, but she isn’t opposed to the event happening. She’d even attend, she wrote, to hear him for herself.
But CSUB and students shouldn’t be required to pay for Yiannopoulos to come, Lewis said.
“I'm not at all arguing he shouldn't be allowed to speak here. I'm arguing that campus policy means we don't have to pay for him. Period. We don't have to pay for anything even remotely like him, we didn't pay for Biden, we didn't pay for the man who blew Watergate when he came and spoke, we wouldn't pay for Trump. Clubs don't get to do this. That's it. That is all I'm saying,” she wrote.