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UB student club draws backlash over guest speaker, event will go on

The backlash comes after the speaker drew criticism for comments he made at the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC over the weekend.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A local chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom club has received backlash over its plans to host Michael Knowles for a speaking event at the University at Buffalo.

The backlash comes after Knowles drew criticism for comments he made at the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC over the weekend, during which he said: "Transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely. The whole preposterous ideology at every level."

The remarks drew pushback from the LGBTQ+ community and others who called the statements hateful and dangerous and brought the largely unknown event at UB into the spotlight.

According to a written statement from the university, the event scheduled for Thursday at Slee Hall will go on as planned despite calls for its cancellation.

"As a public university, UB must uphold the principles of the First Amendment and cannot disallow student groups from inviting controversial speakers to campus, even if the views of the speaker, or content of the speech, is hurtful or demeaning," UB said in the statement Sunday.

The university added it "does not take a position on the views of those who visit campus" even if a speaker's opinions run contrary to its own. 

"The university holds steadfast to its values of diversity, inclusion, equity, and mutual respect," the statement read.

Diana Patton a transgender woman, President of the We Exist Coalition of Buffalo, and Erie County Chapter Chair for the group Defense of Democracy does not see it that way and called UB's decision a cop-out.

"I don't see how a college like UB where I've been asked to speak on multiple occasions can host an event like this," Patton told 2 On Your Side.

She added, "You can't have transgenderism without transgender people. If you want, change the noun transgenderism to Jewish to Christian... it doesn't pass muster."

Patton is also a U.S. Navy veteran and said she plans to attend Thursday's speaking event titled "How Radical Feminism Destroys Women (And Everything Else)" at Slee Hall as a form of protest. She dared anyone to try and remove her.

While Patton has joined a number of people and organizations speaking out against the event, the initial complaint was made by three UB faculty members.

In a letter delivered to UB President Satish Tripathi Sunday,  English Professor Carrie Tirado Bramen and the Director of UB's Gender Institute, Associate English Professor David Schmid, and Associate History Professor Michael Rembis, Ph.D. called for the event to be canceled and Mr. Knowles' invite rescinded.

"We believe that this inflammatory language is effectively a call for genocidal violence against members of the transgender community and will, at the very least, encourage acts of violence against members of that community," the faculty wrote.

In its statement, UB did explain that government-sponsored clubs have autonomy when inviting speakers, as long as they follow campus laws and guidelines regarding public events.

The Young Americans for Freedom chapter at the University at Buffalo has not responded to 2 On Your Side's attempts to reach them via email, Twitter, or online form. The club had just finished handing out fliers inside UB's student union when reporter Rob Hackford went to get their perspective.

In a quote tweet to a report by the Buffalo News, however, University at Buffalo YAF said "Pushback from protestors against our upcoming event, featuring Michael Knowles does not overpower the 1st Amendment."


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