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UB president, Michael Knowles respond to backlash about Thursday speaker event

UB students and faculty have expressed concern for conservative commentator Michael Knowles speaking on campus.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — University at Buffalo students are calling on their peers and the university to take action in response to its Young Americans for Freedom chapter inviting conservative commentator Michael Knowles to speak Thursday.

“Allowing this type of behavior in an environment where we do have transgender students, we have transgender faculty showing, that this kind of speech is tolerated, is not okay,” UB student Rayna Cooke said. “What does that say to our students and community members?”

The decision has drawn campus-wide backlash from students and faculty, particularly from the university’s LGBTQ+ community which has called Knowles’ comments at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference hateful and a call for genocide after he said: “Transgederism must be eradicated from public life entirely.”

“It's different to have an opinion of someone else. It's another thing to incite violence and to spread hateful rhetoric as if it is the objectively correct way,” Cooke said.

Despite Knowles's controversial comments, the student group’s president said they’re still excited to welcome him to campus to help spread their conservative point of view that is often overlooked on college campuses.

“We're certainly not unfamiliar with pushback towards our events or, in this case, pushback from faculty even,” UB Young Americans for Freedom President Connor Ogryeziak said. “But no, we're still excited to welcome him and hope all who are interested, both supporters and objectors of Michael, will attend.” 

The conservative commentator responded, saying in a statement to 2 On Your Side that his comments over the weekend were misinterpreted and clarifying that he “referred explicitly to transgenderism as an ‘ideology’ and explained that ‘transgenderism must be eradicated from public life’ not only ‘for the good of society’ but also ‘, especially for the good of the poor people who have fallen prey to this delusion.’ No even mildly reasonable person could have interpreted my words as insinuating any sort of violence.”

The university’s president also acknowledged the backlash, saying in a statement sent to all students and faculty that the university does not condone hate speech and values the transgender members of its community.

But “as a public university, we must support the constitutionally protected democratic principles of the First Amendment. … So long as a student group abides by university guidelines and state laws concerning public events on campus, we cannot disallow the student group from inviting the speaker of their choosing to campus.”

Students at the University of Buffalo are not accepting the university’s reasoning and plan to protest the event right here outside of Slee Hall Thursday evening an hour before the event is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m.

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