A group of students from the University of California at Berkeley have started a petition on Change.org asking administrators to rescind their invitation to have Bill Maher speak at the university’s mid-year commencement, in response to what they allege are anti-Muslim statements on Maher’s part. The petition has already received 1,400 signatures, and is backed by the Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian Coalition on campus.
“It’s not an issue of freedom of speech, it’s a matter of campus climate,” student senator Marium Navid told The Daily Californian. “The First Amendment gives him the right to speak his mind, but it doesn’t give him the right to speak at such an elevated platform as the commencement. That’s a privilege his racist and bigoted remarks don’t give him.”
“I can’t condone the university inviting a speaker that threatens the campus climate of our university,” UC system student regent Sadia Saifuddin, who is Muslim, said in an email to The Los Angeles Times. “I believe there is a fundamental difference between free speech and hate speech, as well as a difference between Maher being allowed to express his views, and being given the honor of giving the keynote address sponsored by the university. And as the Student Regent, I don’t stand for any university-sponsored action that makes students feel unsafe and unwelcome, especially on such an important day as their commencement.”