The University of California, Berkeley says it will not rescind an invitation to comedian Bill Maher to be the school’s commencement speaker, despite a student vote to disinvite him.
The student committee in charge of the speaker selection process voted to rescind the HBO host’s invitation on Tuesday amid growing criticism of Maher’s views on religion and particularly Islam. More than 4,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org to cancel Maher’s December commencement speech.
But on Wednesday, the university released a statement saying it will not accept the student vote.
“The UC Berkeley administration 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,” the school said. “It should be noted that this decision does not constitute an endorsement of any of Mr. Maher’s prior statements: indeed, 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.”
Maher’s response to the controversy? You’ll have to watch the show: