Students at the University of California San Diego staged a protest last week in the hopes that school administrators would cancel a planned appearance by that hard-line conservative commentator whose rhetoric is known to incite violence wherever he goes: the Dalai Lama.
For once, the complainers weren’t campus liberals, but Chinese students who claimed the Dalai Lama’s message of world peace was actually a cover for a campaign of violence, property damage, and death, which runs contrary to UCSD’s commitment to tolerance and equality.
“UCSD is a place for students to cultivate their minds and and enrich their knowledge,” the Chinese Students and Scholars Organization said in a statement. “Currently, the various actions undertaken by the university have contravened the spirit of respect, tolerance, equality, and earnestness—the ethos upon which the university is built.”
Of course, the irony of using a claim of tolerance to shut down a speaker is lost on the students working so diligently to exile the Dalai Lama not just from his home territory but also from a San Diego university.
The CSSO also published an op-ed and disseminated posters claiming that Chinese students at the University were owed the same administration response that other groups of students would get, should they object to a campus speaker.
UC San Diego’s student body is about 14% Chinese.
The good news for free speech advocates is, UC San Diego did afford the Chinese students the same level of respect they say they’d give to any student organization objecting to a speaker: they denied their request.
The Dalai Lama was allowed to speak on Saturday and, far from inciting violence, encouraged UC San Diego’s student body to “create a better world” by eliminating their own divisive behavior.
In this case, it appears UC San Diego is doing the right thing: a group has a claim against a speaker, demands it be acknowledged and acted upon, and a university, instead, allows an (admittedly non-violent, but nonetheless controversial) speaker to take the stage anyway. And everyone survived—even those who don’t particularly like the Dalai Lama.