Three campus groups—UChicago Socialists, Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), and U of C Resists—held a public meeting on Friday afternoon to start planning demonstrations against Steve Bannon’s campus visit. At the end of the meeting, attendees passed a resolution to hold a protest outside the Booth School of Business this coming Friday afternoon, followed by another public meeting.
The Maroon reported on Wednesday afternoon that Bannon had accepted an invitation from Booth professor Luigi Zingales to speak on campus. On Thursday, the University released a statement that the event will tentatively take the form of a debate, with the former White House chief strategist debating “an expert in the field” on topics including the economic benefits of globalization and immigration. The debate, which Zingales will moderate, has yet to be scheduled.
Around 95 people attended the planning meeting, held in University Church. U of C Resists organizer and associate professor in philosophy Anton Ford described it as a preliminary discussion of activist responses to Bannon, both leading up to and during his visit.
The meeting was conducted as an open forum, with University students, staff, and faculty and community members able to voice suggestions. A vote held at the start of the meeting decided that all speeches made during the open forum would be off the record.
Associate professor in history Amy Dru Stanley, who spoke during the forum, wrote in an e-mail to The Maroon that the concerns she expressed at the meeting include the importance of nonviolent tactics in protesting Bannon’s visit. During the meeting, Stanley also cited the Charlottesville riots as an example of “deadly chaos generated by white nationalists on college campuses” and discussed the dangers of framing the controversy surrounding Bannon’s appearance “as one between protection of civil liberties and condemnation of white nationalism.”
Tyler Williams, an assistant professor of South Asian Languages and Civilizations who spoke during the forum and also signed the faculty’s open letter to University administration opposing Bannon’s invitation, suggested that activists should host their own lectures and panels before Bannon’s visit.
Williams wrote in an e-mail to The Maroon that this will allow University and community members who have been “impacted by anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim policies engineered by Bannon” to explain why “giving white nationalists like Bannon more space in institutions of learning will only further legitimize white nationalist discourse.”
“This is not an issue of freedom of speech . . . but rather an issue of the University sending a message to the public (and to its own members) that it considers such white nationalist rhetoric to be legitimate intellectual and political discourse,” Williams added.
Assistant professor in English Zachary Samalin, who also spoke during the forum and signed the faculty letter, raised other objections. “As our school continues to legitimize racist and exploitative right-wing politics, it seems likely to me that we will begin to lose colleagues to other institutions that are more willing to listen to and to respect their concerns, and that we will have difficulty attracting and recruiting new faculty and students, especially minority faculty and students,” he wrote in an email to The Maroon.
“Our community stands to gain absolutely nothing by allowing [Bannon] to use our institution to whitewash his reputation. Only Steve Bannon himself stands to gain anything from this event…. Whatever my colleague Luigi Zingales might have misguidedly intended, an event like this affects and disrupts all aspects of university life.”
“I think the people of Chicago have sent a clear message that Steve Bannon is not welcome in our city,” second-year and YDSA organizer Sam Joyce, one of the meeting’s facilitators, told The Maroon. “It was great to see a room filled with so many people enthusiastic about standing up and protesting white supremacy.”