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Berkeley administration overrules students: Bill Maher still invited to speak at commencement

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Bill Maher (screen capture)

A campaign by Berkeley students to rescind an invitation to Bill Maher to speak at their winter commencement has failed, as the university administration has refused to disinvite the comedian.

For a moment, the petition appeared to have succeeded, as the student body group responsible for the invitation, the “Californians,” voted in favor of rescinding it on Wednesday. However, the group did so without the participation of the administration, which overruled their decision.

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In a statement released late Wednesday, the administration said that it “cannot and will not accept this decision, which appears to have been based solely on Mr. Maher’s opinions and beliefs, which he conveyed through constitutionally protected speech.”

“For that reason Chancellor Dirks has decided that the invitation will stand, and he looks forward to welcoming Mr. Maher to the Berkeley campus.”

The statement was careful to note that “this decision does not constitute an endorsement of any of Mr. Maher’s prior statements,” which the petition to rescind the invitation characterized as bigoted and racist.

His “public statements on various religions and cultures are offensive and his dangerous rhetoric has found its way into our campus communities,” the petition claimed. “Too many students are marginalized by his remarks and if the University were to bring this individual as a commencement speaker they would not be supporting these historically marginalized communities.”

The press release addressed those concerns, stating that “the administration’s position on Mr. Maher’s opinions and perspectives is irrelevant in this context, since we fully respect and support his right to express them. More broadly, this university has not in the past and will not in the future shy away from hosting speakers who some deem provocative.”

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