In a landmark decision for free speech on college campuses, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Young Americas Foundation and the UC Berkeley College Republicans have settled their year-long legal fight.
The legal suit was brought on after conservatives at the school argued the school was reflecting a bias against prominent conservative speakers like Ann Coulter and Ben Shapiro. Coulter was forced to cancel her speaking event and Shapiro was charged a whopping $20,000 security fee for his attendance. The Young Americans Foundation quickly backed the legal suit, giving it the financial support and legal expertise it needed.
As the Washington Examiner reports, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest which supported the conservative groups, all but forcing the university to make a deal.
From the report:
The crux of their argument revolved around two campus policies that they claim violate students’ First and 14th Amendment rights: an unspoken “High-Profile Speaker Policy” and an on-the-books “ Major Events Policy.”
“This Department of Justice will not stand by idly while public universities violate students’ constitutional rights,” Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand saidat the time.
The decision resulted in the university being forced to pay $70,000 to the conservative groups among other changes to the process of selecting and inviting a speaker to the school.
In the settlement, UC Berkeley agreed to the following terms set by YAF:
- Pay YAF $70,000.
- Rescind the unconstitutional “High-Profile Speaker Policy.”
- Rescind the viewpoint-discriminatory security fee policy.
- Abolish its heckler’s veto — protesters will no longer be able to shut down conservative expression.
The school is now forced to treat its students fairly and cannot act unilaterally to shut down conservative invitations or speaking events.
“Young America’s Foundation is thrilled that, after more than a year of UC Berkeley battling against the First Amendment rights of its own students, the University finally felt the heat and saw the light of their unconstitutional censorship,” the Young Americans Foundation said in a press statement, via the Daily Wire. “YAF’s landmark victory for free expression—long squelched by Berkeley’s scheming administrators who weaponized flawed policies to target conservatives—shows that the battle for freedom undertaken by YAF on campuses nationwide is a necessary one.”
“The policy that allowed Berkeley administrators to charge conservative students $20,000 for security to host Ben Shapiro — an amount three times greater than the fee charged to leftist students to host liberal Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor — is gone,” the statement continued.
“This settlement is a huge win for the Berkeley College Republicans and really all student groups on campus,” Matt Ronnau, President of the Berkeley College Republicans, said to the Washington Examiner. “This is a huge win for the 1st Amendment, and I am proud of the work that the men and women of the Berkeley College Republicans have put in to achieve this victory.”
Here’s more on the Shapiro incident, per the Daily Wire:
In July 2017, in an email to Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) who were sponsoring Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro’s speech along with YAF which was scheduled for September 14, 2017, UC Berkeley Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell and Student Organization Coordinator Millicent Morris Chaney deniedthe students’ request for a venue for the event despite what Morris Chaney called “extensive efforts.” BCR fired back that Shapiro was coming whether the university liked it or not. UCB then said they would cover the security fees. In August, UC Berkeley’s college Republicans had to agree to pay $15,738 for what the university called “basic security costs” — costs that would be paid by Young America’s Foundation.
Note: The author of this article has included commentary that expresses an opinion and analysis of the facts.