Milo Yiannopoulos campus visit cancelled

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Update, 11:03 a.m., Sept. 22, 2016: This story was updated to include a more accurate price for the cost of Yiannopoulos’s visit.

Conservative political websites including Breitbart, Fox News and Heat Street vilified the University of Miami for what they called suppression of free speech after a talk by outspoken, far-right journalist Milo Yiannopoulos was cancelled. UM College Republicans, the student organization that tried to bring the “Dangerous F*ggot Tour” to campus, said it was their decision to cancel the event because they could not afford the costly security detail required for the visit.

Yiannopoulos, a flashy, energetic speaker known as a conservative gay but better known for being embroiled in controversy, was tentatively scheduled to speak at UM on Oct. 3.

“Our hopes were that it would open up dialogue on campus, bringing in a different voice,” said Chris Dalton, president of UM College Republicans. “We didn’t want to offend anybody, we just wanted to bring a different speaker on campus, to get students to think in a way that they normally wouldn’t and be open to ideas that they normally wouldn’t.”

However the combined costs of hiring security, transportation and booking a venue — which an official in Students Activity Financial Allocation Committee (SAFAC) said was around $22,000 — was not in the student organization’s budget.

Dalton had no choice but to cancel the event. The price of Yiannopoulos’s visit was so high because of security issues at other college campuses he visited.

On his college tour, Yiannopoulos faced many protests from students and faculty for his often-unsavory comments.

He was permanently banned from Twitter, where his biography read “BuzzFeed Social Justice warrior,” after a string of tendentious tweets. He criticized Islam after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla. over the summer. His overtly racist and sexist tweets at Saturday Night Live and Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones were what ultimately led to his removal from the social media platform.

Most notable of the college campus protests were those at Rutgers University, where a protestor smeared red paint on herself during his speech, and at DePaul University in Chicago, where BlackLivesMatter protesters ran onto the stage during the event and took the microphone, prompting Yiannopoulos to end the event early.

UM officials released a statement saying that after discussions with UM College Republicans about logistics, the student organization decided against the event.

“The College Republicans student organization was approached about hosting an event with Milo Yiannopoulos. The College Republicans met with University of Miami staff to review operations and logistics needed to host the speaker. The College Republicans decided not to pursue the event,” the statement said.

The University of Miami Police Department, who would organize the security detail, had no comment.

“Campus administrators never said he could not come,” Dalton said. “They did not force us at all to cancel the event, we decided to. It was never official, as we were still in the planning stages, and we came to the decision that we could not go forward with the event as it would cost a lot of money that we do not have.”

Mary Balise, president of SpectrUM, the LGBT student organization on campus, said she didn’t like how a slur was used in the title, but saw merit in bringing a different type of speaker.

“I don’t think it’s very appropriate to use hate speech that makes light of it,” she said. “But opening new lines of conversation is always a good thing, even if it is controversial. However, if it does make the larger LGBTQ community very uncomfortable, I don’t know how I would feel about it being on campus.”

Dalton said he hopes an event with Yiannopoulos will happen in the future.

“We support him being against political correctness,” Dalton said. “We had really good intentions in bringing him, but we just couldn’t execute it.”

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