UC Berkeley to Host Republican Speaker Ben Shapiro
Facing a lawsuit, UC Berkeley officials say they are committed to free speech.
Officials with the University of California Berkeley say they will host conservative speaker Ben Shapiro on campus Sept. 14 out of a commitment to free speech.
The announcement came last week after UC Berkeley had previously said there were no free rooms available for student groups on that date, reports the Star Tribune.
UC Berkeley also said it would waive the venue fee for the Berkeley College Republicans, the student group that invited Shapiro to speak, if the campus venue selected is not free.
“The event will either take place in a smaller venue or the university will foot the bill for a larger venue that’s available,” UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said. “All the details will have to be worked out with them, but I’m optimistic.”
UC Berkeley’s decision to waive the venue fee comes as colleges are grappling with how best to handle costs associated with speaking events that bring protests and thus require added security.
Some schools have forced the student groups hosting the events to pay the security costs, some have cancelled events citing insufficient resources and some have paid for all or part of the security associated with controversial events.
UC Berkeley has also taken center stage as more and more protests have erupted on college campuses across the country in recent years, some of which have turned violent.
In February, people protesting a UC Berkeley event featuring the controversial Republican speaker Milo Yiannopoulos caused more than $100,000 worth of damage to the campus and forced a partial lockdown.
The event was cancelled “out of concern for public safety” and some criticized the UC Berkeley Police Department’s decision not to enter the crowd of protesters during the height of violence and destruction.
In response to that incident, President Trump tweeted that he would consider pulling federal funding to UC Berkeley if it did not allow free speech.
Campus Safety has also reported that at least 50 students involved with the Berkeley College Republicans have been harassed with threatening emails since the Yiannopoulos protests.
More recently, a controversy over conservative speaker Ann Coulter’s cancelled UC Berkeley speech in April led to an ongoing lawsuit filed by the Berkeley College Republicans. The lawsuit claims university administrators “systematically and intentionally suppressed constitutionally-protected expression” when they cancelled Coulter’s speech scheduled for April 27. The Young America Foundation, which is paying Shapiro’s upcoming speaking fee, is also listed as a plaintiff in that lawsuit.
University officials have said they are committed to having Ann Coulter speak on campus, but the Young America Foundation said the event as-scheduled was cancelled “due to the lack of assurances for protections from foreseeable violence from unrestrained leftist agitators.”