Support Students’ Decision to Avoid Hate Speech


Target: UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks

Goal: Respect students’ right to not be exposed to hateful, bigoted speech

The UC Berkeley student group responsible for inviting personalities to speak at the university’s commencement ceremonies recently voted in favor of revoking an invitation to controversial comedian Bill Maher. The school’s administration, however, has decided not to respect the decision and to continue on with the planned commencement speaker. Demand that the university administration respect the decision of its student body and rescind the invitation to Bill Maher.

A recent petition launched by UC Berkeley students to urge the university to repeal a commencement speakership invitation to Bill Maher over racist and Islamophobic remarks he made garnered over 4,000 signatures in a week, and compelled the student organization in charge of selecting and inviting speakers to vote in favor of revoking his invitation. However the university’s administration, led by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, has decided to ignore the decision of its student body, arguing that rescinding Maher’s invitation based only on the things he has said would be in violation of his right to free speech. This decision has effectively erased the agency of the university’s student body to govern what types of speech that they as a community should have to be subject to.

While the decision on the university administration’s part to continue with Maher’s commencement speech is troubling in its own right, its willful dismissal of the wishes of the students is much more upsetting. If students don’t want to be exposed to racism, bigotry, and Islamophobia on their graduation day, they shouldn’t have to be. Sign the petition below to demand that UC Berkeley respect the decision of its students and revoke Bill Maher’s commencement speech invitation.


Dear Chancellor Dirks,

I am writing you today because I am extremely disappointed with your administration’s decision to carry on with the plan to host Bill Maher during your graduation ceremony. I urge you to reconsider your position on this matter.

What is troubling is not only that you are willingly legitimizing bigotry and Islamophobia by providing Maher a platform at a university that is respected worldwide–it is also your complete disrespect for your student body. In carrying on with Bill Maher, you are ignoring your student body’s express concerns. Not only that, though–you are also ignoring the decision they have made, a decision they made in keeping with their rights as a community that deserves the ability to govern what types of speech they are subjected to. This is not a matter of you valiantly defending Maher’s constitutionally-protected right to free speech from a bunch of overly-sensitive young people who maybe find his opinions too “provocative”–this is a matter of your students making a conscious decision that they do not want to be exposed to such toxic, bigoted speech on such a special day, and you ignoring that decision. Your disregard for your students’ opinions and well being is staggering.

I urge you to recognize and accept the vote of the Californians in favor of revoking Maher’s invitation, and do just that: revoke his invitation. Your students deserve nothing less, and they have already made their position on the matter abundantly clear.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: The GMAT Project via

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74 Signatures

  • Muhammad Kamal
  • Alice Rim
  • Jill Ballard
  • Terrie Phenicie
  • Holly Hall
  • Alexander Dolowitz
  • Mal Gaff
  • Nancy Petersen
  • Kqy Martin
  • Hermann Kastner
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