Unsanctioned speaker stirs controversy online



Claire Hoffman

Last Monday, social media was set ablaze by concerned students and alumni in the wake of conservative rabble-rouser Milo Yiannopoulos’ announced visit to the University’s campus in November. The event was reported to be hosted by the Villanova College Republicans, though no attempts to have the speaker’s visit authorized by the University were made. 

“We were still in the preliminary planning,” Villanova College Republicans Executive Board member Frank Connor said. “We used the EventBrite to just see who would be interested in coming.” Villanova University remains a stop listed on Yiannopoulos’ website’s tour schedule.

Yiannopoulos stirs controversy for his public criticism of feminism, the Black Lives Matter movement and “political correctness.” Students in Alumni Hall circulated an EventBrite page with messages of protest of the figure and Villanovans were urged to reach out to University administrators to complain. 

“I was disappointed to see Villanova hosting the event,” Eric Aldieri ’17 said. “I, and a number of other people who find his rhetoric dangerous, were planning on attending while wearing an assortment of feminist and Black Lives Matter apparel.”

Cierra Belin ‘18 said she went through “the seven stages of grief” upon hearing the news.

“It truly disgusted me that our university would welcome someone like that,” Belin said. “Villanova already has too much work to do in diversity inclusion, that having him validate those micro agressions would set us back a good 50 years.”

JJ Brown, Director of the Office of Student Involvement, said he was alerted to the event on Monday night and that the event was never approved by his office. “Any student organization looking to bring a speaker on campus works with our office,” Brown said. “This was not approved and not sanctioned.”

The University’s response elicited reactions from the Villanova community ranging from approval of the condemnation of the figure to concern over the school’s neglect of the right of free speech on campus. “Free speech is essential to a free society, even that which offends, or with which one disagrees,” a student who chose to remain anonymous said.

Though not a supporter of Yiannoupoulos, the student expressed the need for the University to “make every effort to uphold the rights affirmed to its community members and guests by the Constitution, and take seriously those values and traditions promoted in its own mission statement: to foster excellence in an environment that supports individual differences.” 

 “We weren’t shocked,” Connor said about the negative reaction the proposed event elicited online. “[Yiannopoulos is] a big free speech guy, and I think we saw a good demonstration of free speech online. We aren’t discouraged by that.”

Villanova College Republicans hopes to invite more speakers in the future and stay active on campus.