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Advancing Women in Science group asks UNM to be accountable with Yiannopoulos visit

Another UNM student organization has sent a letter to UNM administrators expressing concern over Milo Yiannopoulos’s speaking engagement on campus this Friday.

Advancing Women in Science wrote the letter — which was signed by 300 other students and other University community members — on Monday morning.

“One of our goals is to take action against sexism on campus,” AWS Co-President Andrea Chavez said. “We wrote this letter to raise our concerns about the importance of the University’s role in providing an intellectual space for students to be exposed to and to engage in key controversial debates of our time. It is the responsibility of the University to ensure that speakers — and the groups that bring them — are not engaging in hate speech or harassment, endangering or marginalizing students, or stifling productive discussion.”

Chavez said Yiannopoulos has made inaccurate assertions about gender disparity in STEM fields and the group hopes to see the administration provide a clear plan for preventing discrimination, harassment and hate speech.

The letter comes shortly after a letter by other student organizations was issued, and representatives from those student groups met with administrators last week to discuss their concerns about Yiannopoulos’s appearance.

It echoes concerns raised by those organizations about Yiannopoulos’s behavior at other universities in his speaking tour and asserts that his articles promote structural discrimination against women and minorities.

The letter also references the speaker’s discriminatory interactions with a trans student at the University of Washington, expressing disappointment that he is speaking at UNM on Friday.

The letter cites the UNM Visitor’s Code of Conduct in regards to visitors speakers, and the Equal Opportunity, Non-Discrimination and Affirmative Action Policy to argue that UNM has the ability to prevent someone from speaking who is likely to do physical harm.

The letter of concern that student organizers met with administrators about last week cited the same section, but administrators made it clear in that meeting that they can do nothing about Yiannopoulos unless he threatens physical violence when he gets here.

However, the letter requests that UNM take four actions in the likely event that Yiannopoulos does speak on Friday:

  • That UNM issues a public statement on the school’s stance on discrimination and its role in hosting Yiannopoulos.
  • The creation of formal statement outlining the financial backing for the speaking engagement. The letter also requests assurance that no UNM logos will be on event promotional materials.
  • That UNM make clear in writing to Yiannopoulos before the event that the University will not condone hate speech, and will cancel the event if hate speech occurs.
  • That UNM proactively show support for female and minority students, and faculty in STEM, as the letter implies that those groups may be targeted in Yiannopoulos’s speech.

Chavez said a written stance about Yiannopoulos is important to the group so that UNM is held accountable.

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At the meeting with student organizers last week, administrators did say that the extra security fee will be passed on to the student group hosting the event.

Acting University President Chaouki Abdallah has received and reviewed the letter. On Monday, in his weekly communication, President Abdallah addressed the controversy surrounding Friday’s speaking engagement, as well as why he won’t ban the controversial speaker from campus.

UNM police are monitoring Yiannopoulos’s actions at other campuses, along with scheduled protests outside the SUB on Friday, according to a statement from the university.

Advancing Women in Science is holding an alternative event on Friday at 3:30 where they will be showing the documentary “Women in Space” in the SUB theater, according to Stephanie Fox.

“While we are against giving Yiannopoulos a platform for hate speech and harassment, we are in favour of free speech and the ethical discussion of controversial topics,” Chavez said. “We are pleased to see that there are a number of events planned on campus this week that are specifically organized on this topic.”

Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.

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