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Inviting Betsy DeVos is highly disrespectful towards students who have benefited from public education, as well as the students who are trauma survivors.

By Montez Jennings I graduated from University of Baltimore (UB) in 2016 and as a former student I was rather surprised to hear that current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos was invited to speak at Fall 2017 commencement. Current UB President, Kurt Schmoke, decided out of all of the people in Baltimore city, Maryland and the DMV area, that DeVos would be the best person for the job. The same DeVos who doesn’t believe in public education and wants to rewrite the rules of Title IX  in favor of accused rapists. After moments of disbelief, it’s safe to say my alma mater beyond disappointed me. I remember my time at the commuter school — many who are familiar with the university knows it was initially for the working person offering an array of classes at night — however, the culture has shifted between its founding in 1925 and now. The school welcomed a few more areas of study and a lot more young Black and Brown kids, even going from a two-year school to admitting freshman. I attended the university two years after being a student at a private Catholic single sex school. UB has its niche and its flair, being the modern, somewhat liberal university stationed in a thriving intersection of the city.
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The attacks on Berkeley by white supremacists are just one part of a larger trend in which fascism is gradually gaining a foothold into many of our institutions.

Berkeley is primed for another wave of white supremacist attacks next week with the inception of a series of talks euphemistically referred to as “Free Speech Week,” which will feature a full line-up of talks and presentations by alt-right media pundits (including Milo Yiannopoulos and Steve Bannon, among others).

Partly in retaliation for the dramatic shut-down of Milo Yiannopoulos’s scheduled talk there last January by anti-fascist protestors—in which Yiannopoulos had planned to exercise his “free speech” rights to publicly reveal the names of undocumented students at UC Berkeley—the Berkeley College Republicans, with the financial backing of wealthy conservatives tied to the state of Israel, has invited a plethora of reactionary speakers to openly present their bigoted views on campus.

Although the content of these talks (which will include explicitly anti-Black, anti-immigrant, anti-trans hate speech targeted at vulnerable student populations) clearly violates the rights of students to work and study in an environment free of harassment (also known as Title IX), the university administration refuses to cancel these talks. This is because, according to them, they are a public university and are thus legally bound to uphold the First Amendment rights of all students (including those students who espouse extreme right-wing views) to invite speakers of their choice to campus.

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