Without imposing any religious doctrine on anyone, I think this week we should all thank Christ. By Christ, I mean University of California at Berkeley’s new chancellor, Carol Christ, who should be commended for upholding the principles of free speech on a campus that recently experienced violence at the prospect of hosting controversial speakers.

Earlier this year, Berkeley was scheduled to host a slew of controversial speakers including provocateur and former Breitbart employee Milo Yiannopoulos on February 1 and conservative columnist Ann Coulter on April 27.  While protesting Yiannopoulos, far leftist groups set fires, deliberately damaged property, and attacked crowd members as well as police. 

Following the cancellation of the event, the months that followed included multiple pro-Trump rallies that were met with counter-protesters. Far right Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups were also present. These clashes resulted in several injuries and arrests with the police confiscating metal bats, bricks and other weapons. Coulter’s speech was canceled by the university due to security concerns based on these previous events.

Last Thursday, Berkeley successfully hosted Jewish conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart writer who now runs his own media company known as The Daily Wire. Shapiro is known for attending universities and speaking events across the country. His speeches and Q&A sessions are often YouTube hits as he rarely, if ever, is stumped by any of his encounters with other students or panelists. Shapiro’s fiery debating strategy, extensive use of evidence, and impeccable grasp of logic makes him an idol to many young conservatives in the United States.

It was anticipated that Shapiro’s speech would cause amplified tension and that extreme measures would have to be taken in order to keep peace on Berkeley’s campus. Given the contentious political environment in this country and the polarizing nature of Mr. Shapiro’s ideology, Berkeley made sure to plan for the worst. 

In fact, the university reportedly spent $600,000 to ensure adequate security and used officers from each of the 10 campuses within the University of California System. Other measures taken included erecting concrete barriers, establishing a secure perimeter, and closing off access to nearby buildings. Despite that Berkeley banned the use of pepper spray 30 years ago, the City Council voted to permit police to use pepper spray if necessary. These measures successfully ensured that no one was injured by violence. Out of the 1,000 protesters, 9 were arrested.

To those who cherish freedom of speech and an open exchange of ideas, Shapiro’s unobstructed presentation was a major achievement considering the direction in which college campus dialogue is going. Not only was this event a win for Shapiro supporters, but also a significant improvement in upholding peaceful protest.

Free speech and democratic principles prevailed over censorship and violence. Whether or not you agree or disagree with Mr. Shapiro’s opinions, no one should deny that his free speech privileges are protected equally compared to all other citizens. The notion that his identity or ideology disqualifies him from expressing certain opinions is a fallacy that attempts to undermine the legitimacy of a person’s ideas. Yet, this misconception is commonly used on college campuses today in order to discredit and demonize certain arguments, particularly those made by conservatives and libertarians.

Chancellor Christ deserves immense credit for defending a fundamental liberty needed for a civil and just society. She demonstrates an excellent mindset with regard to dealing with controversy, which should serve as an example for college administrators across the country. In the past, she has respectfully advised her students to have an objective view of defending free speech. 

This means defending free speech even when a speaker may have ideas that are “hateful,” “bigoted,” or simply not aligned with popular opinion. She specifically wrote in a campus-wide letter this August, “Call toxic speech out for what it is, don’t shout it down, for in shouting it down, you collude in the narrative that universities are not open to all speech. Respond to hate speech with more speech.”

If Duke hosts speakers like Shapiro in the future, it should pledge its full support to upholding free speech, regardless of the monetary price. The free exchange of ideas is priceless, and will always be a worthwhile investment.

I remind everyone that Duke University’s community standard explicitly states, “It is the policy of the university to protect the right of voluntary assembly, to make its facilities available for peaceful assembly, to welcome guest speakers, to protect the exercise of these rights from disruption or interference.”

Duke must ensure that violence does not intimidate free thought. Personal friends of mine who are ideological minorities on this campus often feel threatened or fearful if they speak up for their views. This should never be the case on a campus that preaches tolerance.

Free speech provides for social innovation, checks the power of authority, and reminds us that we are a society of open-mindedness. Free speech is a fundamental prerequisite for a free society, no matter if the ideas expressed are repulsive, offensive, or even revolutionary. Free speech, not violence, can and should also be used as a tool for condemnation of repugnant and immoral ideologies. History ensures us that if we suppress speech through the use of violence because we find certain ideas distasteful or “triggering,” we are implementing elements of totalitarianism into our society that echo those of Nazi Germany and North Korea. We would also be setting the dangerous precedent that the masses can oppress the minority.

I commend organizations and professors on Duke’s campus that are committed to protecting every student’s right to speak their mind. POLIS and The Chronicle are examples of organizations on campus that deserve praise for facilitating peaceful dialogue. I encourage the various political organizations on campus to challenge the views of our student body and create dialogue that addresses the issues we currently face as a society. Through this process, we can effectively heal the wounds that currently separate us.

Mitchell Siegel is a Trinity sophomore. His column, "truth be told," runs on alternate Wednesdays.