Young Americans for Liberty is hosting an open forum on free speech tonight, inviting students to consider whether free speech should apply to extremist groups.

Troy Eggertsen, YAL president and second-year mathematics and philosophy major, said his group is “extremely pro-free speech.”

The event, titled “Should the Right to Free Speech Extend to Extreme Groups like Nazis and Antifa?,” will take place 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Oct. 10 in the Hub.

Eggertsen wants students to discuss free speech with students who may have dissenting opinions to better understand and modify their perspectives.

YAL has been politically active on UC Santa Barbara’s campus, hosting similar events such as a forum in Spring 2016 debating the validity of sexual assault statistics as well as a forum in May 2017 discussing ethical and efficiency issues within capitalism.

Eggertsen said this forum will fill “the debate void” on campus.  

According to UCen Hub Manager Jill Singletary, the venue hopes to provide students with an open discussion about free speech, inviting all political parties and perspectives.

Singletary said the Hub is a “student space” where all students can gather to discuss various issues without judgement. The Hub accepts all events as long as they are safe and legal, she said.

According to Eggertson, the UCen did not charge YAL to rent out the Hub for their first forum but will negotiate pricing for future debates. Eggertson said YAL hopes to host monthly debates on difficult topics.

“I imagined the university as being this place where people went somewhere and argued and debated and came closer to the ‘truth,’ and I came here and there was nothing like that,” he said.  

UCSB has been criticized in the past for lack of free expression, receiving low rankings in 2015 from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (F.I.R.E.), which focuses on issues affecting higher education, including free speech advocacy.

With recent protests about free speech in Charlottesville, Virginia, Eggertsen said it is important to preserve open discussion on college campuses.

“I think it’s just too common on campus to just caricature the other side,” he said.

Other UC campuses have struggled with the issue of free speech, including UC Berkeley. The campus was criticized in February 2017 for refusing to allow conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos on campus.

They later reversed their decision and allowed him to return for “Free Speech Week” in September 2017.

Their next debate will be on Nov. 8 and is titled “Is Abortion Ethical?”

Reporter Eric Moon contributed reporting.

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