This is the statement released by BridgeUSA at Berkeley, the group worked with the Berkeley College Republicans to organize Ann Coulter’s appearance on campus.
Let us be clear: blame for the cancellation of Ann Coulter’s speech at the UC Berkeley campus does not rest solely on the shoulders of any individual. The administration, student groups including ours, external resistance groups, and the media all made mistakes that need to be corrected. But fundamentally, the system of political dialogue and debate is broken, not just on this campus but across the nation.
BridgeUSA at Berkeley challenges the administration, Berkeley College Republicans, and Ann Coulter to prove their commitment to constructive political discourse, by engaging in a private dialogue to discuss the issue of free speech, the cancellation of the event, and the current political climate. These three continue to affirm their support of free speech yet have demonstrated minimal effort in coming together to talk in a civil manner. Free speech and civil engagement is necessary to move our politics beyond polarization and address points of contention.
When BridgeUSA at Berkeley originally learned of conservative campus groups’ intention to invite Ann Coulter, we stepped in to mediate better conversation. Campus political groups have the right to choose their representation, but that is also accompanied by the responsibility to consider their community. Speakers, likewise, have the right to say whatever they want, but bear the responsibility of owning their words’ consequences. BridgeUSA at Berkeley tried to ensure that these responsibilities were upheld by providing a forum for question and answer: if speakers are to challenge us, we should challenge them in return. But the way in which this event was developing compromised student safety and proved too contradictory to our organization’s mission of standing against divisive politics. So, BridgeUSA at Berkeley withdrew its support.
The blame for the cancellation falls most squarely on three instigators: the non-campus-affiliated militant organizations who intentionally foment destruction and violence, the student groups that invite provocative speakers with the intent of triggering a confrontation, and on the media industry which rewards conflict over conversation and promotes instigation over understanding. We stand in firm condemnation of any group which seeks to divide people for their personal gain- it is irresponsible and detrimental not only to political progress but to our nation as a whole.
We can alleviate polarization if we come to the table to talk, but until such point there is no constructive way forward. Threatening violence does not change minds, and instigating controversy for publicity does not fix a broken system. We at BridgeUSA at Berkeley will continue to engage in dialogue with opposing political perspectives and challenge prominent ideas.
BridgeUSA at Berkeley