This week’s column in the San Luis Obispo Tribune is on alt-right bomb-thrower Milo Yiannopoulos’ upcoming visit to Cal Poly and calls to disinvite him or turn his speech into some sort of panel discussion. For the latter, I’m not sure if the people pushing for this have actually watched video of any of Yiannopoulos’ appearances—even a panel discussion is unlikely to end well for Milo’s foes.
Some commenters on the column wonder why I didn’t address the case of Michael Pollan, a “food guru and big farming opponent” on his visit to Cal Poly several years ago. In that case, Pollan’s initial solo appearance was turned into a panel discussion after the Harris Ranch Beef Company—a major contributor to Cal Poly’s agriculture program—threatened to pull a large donation from the university.
I didn’t address this difference because to me cases involving major contributors using their pocketbooks to affect how universities do things is a different category of controversy. I’d love to have the extraordinarily large sums of money to throw around and change the behavior of an overwhelmingly left-wing academy.
In a perfect world, Pollan would’ve given his talk solo and the next day an opposing talk would have been scheduled. However, this sort of behavior is not abnormal for deep-pocketed donors and expecting a non-Ivy League school to forgo large sums of cash based upon this type of controversy is a little naïve.
However, there’s no big spender on either side of this current controversy, just the typical aggrieved victim groups.
Of course, for those who want Yiannopoulos’ appearance to become a panel discussion, the Pollan case is a roadmap; get a six- or seven-figure donor to threaten to withhold funding.