FAQ about CU College Republicans Event with Mike Cernovich on 10/30/17

Monday, October 30, 2017

Did the University invite Mike Cernovich to speak?
No.  A student organization, the Columbia University College Republicans, invited him to speak.

Does the University agree with Mike Cernovich’s messages?
No, the University does not agree with Mike Cernovich’s messages about male power over women, racial superiority, hostility toward religious minorities including Muslims, and other comments along these lines.

Why doesn’t the University prevent student organizations from inviting speakers like Mike Cernovich whose messages conflict with University values?
The University allows student organizations to invite speakers to campus, even when those speakers’ ideas are deeply offensive and objectionable. The University’s commitment to free expression, open debate, and the testing of ideas means that no message will be ruled out on the ground that it is untrue, offensive, or contrary to our values.

Are students and others permitted to protest Mike Cernovich’s appearance on campus?
Yes. The University’s protest and demonstration rules (known as the Rules of University Conduct) protect the right to protest and demonstrate, including against speakers who have been invited to campus. More information here.

What kind of protests are permitted?
Students and others are allowed to protest individually and in groups outside the event venue.

Event attendees can protest a speaker through powerful comments and questions during the Q&A period; through messages on 8.5”x11” signs and on their clothing; through their writing, including on social media; through refusing to applaud a speaker’s remarks; and other forms of expression that do not interfere with audience members’ ability to hear or see the speaker.

What kinds of protests are not permitted?
Inside the event: Event attendees may not make noise when it is the speaker's turn to talk, block the speaker’s view, or stand in front of an event room unless given permission by the event organizers. 

Outside the event: Columbia’s rules require that noisemaking outside the event venue be kept at a level that does not interfere with audience members’ ability to hear the speaker.  Protesters are also not permitted to block entrance to or exit from the event.

The University’s other rules, including against harassment, violence and property damage, also apply to protests inside and outside of the event.

Since Mike Cernovich has made statements that are threatening to women and others, why isn’t he barred from campus under Columbia’s anti-harassment policy?
The University’s policies clearly prohibit threatening behavior directed by one person at another.  But in public forums, including speakers addressing an audience, hostile messages are permitted unless there is a “clear and present danger” of physical injury occurring right away.

The Rules of University Conduct explain that “[f]ree expression would mean little if it did not include the right to express what others may reject or loathe.” It is a core tenet of the University that the remedy for bad speech is not censorship, but more and better speech that calls out the offensive speech for what it is.  Embracing this approach encourages a communal character that is infused with the capacity to reason and respond, even to hostile, derogatory messages.  

Why doesn’t “free speech” permit audience members to shout over speakers or “shut down” events?
Free speech protections include the right to speak and the right to be heard.  When audience members shout during the speaker's turn to talk, they prevent others from hearing the speaker’s message.

What happens if students or other audience members shout when it is the speaker's turn to talk?
Delegates under the Rules of University Conduct will immediately ask them to stop and warn them that they may be violating Columbia’s rules.

Delegates will also warn them that they may face interim sanctions by the Provost while the Rules process is pending, up to and including suspension.

For more information about disruptions of speakers on campus, see here.

How does the University ensure safety and provide support to students and others on campus?
In many ways.  Columbia Public Safety works 24/7/365 to make our campus and surrounding environs as safe and secure as they can possibly be.   Student affairs staff in each school at Columbia check in regularly with students to hear concerns, offer assistance, and provide a sounding board for ideas and other support as needed.  The University also offers students confidential support through our counseling services, our Office of the University Chaplain, and our Ombuds Office

For more information on student resources and supportive services, please check here.  And for more on public safety during protests on campus, check here.

Event Attendance

Who can attend the event?
Anyone with a Columbia University ID card can register for the event.  To be allowed into the venue, registered attendees must show their CUID card and swipe in.

Can CUID holders who did not register attend the event?
No. To ensure community safety, only individuals who pre-registered are allowed to attend. As with other events sponsored by student organizations, the organizers set the number of people permitted to register as part of the event-planning process.

Are there restrictions on what CUID event registrants can bring into the event venue?
Yes. At Columbia, student organizations typically have discretion to set rules about signs and bags in their events.  At this event, signs up to 8 ½” by 11” will be permitted.  No bags will be permitted.  Signs on sticks are never permitted at CUID events.