When you look up the University of Pittsburgh’s values, two of them are inclusion and community. Why then, has the university done nothing to stop three anti-transgender speakers from coming to campus and spreading their hateful rhetorics that go against both of these values?
For those who haven’t seen the recent news, Pitt’s chapter of Turning Point USA invited Riley Gaines, a collegiate swimmer known for her stance against transgender women in women’s sports, to speak on campus. Pitt’s chapter of Turning Point USA also invited, Cabot Phillips, a senior editor for the conservative website the Daily Wire and known for his far-right views, to come speak on campus. Cabot visited Pitt on March 24th and Gaines’ event followed on March 28th, despite the many concerns raised about the two events. Now, almost a month later, Pitt’s College Republicans will host Michael Knowles, a conservative political commentator, on Tuesday, April 18, to debate Brad Polumbo, a columnist for the Washington Examiner, a conservative news outlet. The debate will be surrounding the question, “should transgenderism be regulated by law?”
The issue with these speakers is not that they’re conservative, rather it’s the anti-trans hate speech they’ve been spreading and promoting. Student backlash has been mounting, as over 10,000 people, myself included, signed a petition calling upon Pitt to cancel these events. Pitt has released two responses on the matter, both equally disappointing.
In the University of Pittsburgh’s responses, they have essentially said they won’t cancel the events because of the right to freedom of speech. However, hate speech is not free speech and should not be protected as such. Earlier this March, Michael Knowles said that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life” in a speech he gave at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Not only that, but that same month he referred to being transgender as “not a legitimate category of being.”
How is Pitt going to allow for someone who calls for the eradication towards a group of people, many of whom attend this university, to come to campus? If he had called for eradication of any other group of people based on something like religion, I doubt he would be allowed to come. So then why is Pitt choosing not to protect their trans students? They are allowing for the creation of an unsafe environment towards these students and others who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. The right for transgender individuals to exist should not be something to hold a debate over. We are going backwards in history with events like these and I am truly embarrassed by the University of Pittsburgh’s lack of action.
The backlash that Pitt is facing can be seen across various online platforms, especially social media sites such as Instagram. Criticism can be seen coming from current students, alumni and members of the local community alike. Matt Davidson, a transgender student at the University of Pittsburgh, is among those voicing his outrage at the university.
“It’s really disappointing as a Pitt student to realize that the university doesn’t care about my health or safety,” Davison said. “To allow speakers like Michael Knowles, who called for the eradication of trans people, to be protected by free speech when he spouts hate and incites violence is a slap in the face to the trans community at Pitt. My existence is not up for debate.”
Pitt is finally showing their true colors by having refused to cancel these events. Not only does it go against their core values, but also their Pitt Promise which states, “I will support a culture of diversity by respecting the rights of those who differ from myself.” This is pretty laughable to read when you look how easily Pitt dismisses the voice of its students who are blatantly saying their rights are being disrespected and they feel unsafe and unheard by the university. No matter how much Provost Ann Cudd tries to say that Pitt is committed to making students feel safe, her words are an empty promise without action to support them. I think it’s time for Pitt to be honest with itself and remove inclusion and community from its core values and just replace them with 🤡.