Bradley Devlin is the secretary of College Republicans at the University of California, Berkeley.
The University of California, Berkeley’s administration has a well-documented history of attempting to stifle the First Amendment rights of conservative students and speakers. Even in the face of a lawsuit against the university, the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) and Young America’s Foundation (YAF) refused to cower and continue to promote conservatism on UC Berkeley’s campus by hosting Ben Shapiro.
Since the announcement of the Shapiro event, the novel of abuses by the University has only expanded further.
On April 24 of this year, BCR and YAF filed a lawsuit against UC Berkeley because of the administration’s repeated efforts to thwart the pedestaling of conservative viewpoints.
In the lawsuit, the co-plaintiffs claim the university has demonstrated “discriminatory application of a policy to restrict conservative speech on the UC Berkeley campus, in violation of YAF and BCR’s constitutional rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection under the law.”
YAF later released a statement saying, “UC-Berkeley administrators should base any policies protecting students’ constitutional rights on the Constitution itself. Berkeley’s response laughably alleges that its actions—welcoming prominent liberals, including Maria Echaveste, a top aide to President Bill Clinton and Vicente Fox Quesada the former president of Mexico, while simultaneously denying equal access for students attempting to host David Horowitz and Ann Coulter—are “viewpoint neutral.”
With an uphill legal battle looming, one would anticipate a change in the university’s attitude toward conservative speakers. However, UC Berkeley’s actions have remained shockingly status quo.
On July 11, BCR and YAF announced they would be hosting Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro at UC Berkeley on September 14th. Shapiro himself offered this statement at the time:
I look forward to speaking to students of all viewpoints at Berkeley. I expect that the administration will not hide behind the heckler’s veto of despicable groups like Antifa to prevent this event from moving forward. The home of the free speech movement has an obligation to protect free speech.
By July 13, hysteria had already set in Berkeley’s hyper-liberal community. The university’s taxpayer-funded, left-wing newspaper, the Daily Californian, claimed Ben Shapiro was controversial and a radical that inflamed right-wing agitators. This was a pitiful attempt to discredit Shapiro and the event.
About a week later, on July 19, the UC Berkeley Administration informed the Berkeley College Republicans and YAF they would be unable to accommodate Shapiro’s lecture at any venue on campus for the desired date and time while reiterating their “commitment to supporting his (Shapiro’s), and your, rights to free speech.”
In response to this development, in the Daily Wire I wrote, “Because administrators have failed to offer next best alternatives at any point in our correspondence, I am extremely skeptical these rooms are “unavailable.”
“This leads me to one conclusion: UC Berkeley is up to its old tricks of Leftist censorship, but this time in a slimy, hypocritical fashion.”
On Aug. 16, the administration informed BCR and YAF that Shapiro’s speech at Zellerbach Hall would come with a security fee of over $15,000. BCR and YAF will challenge this taxation on free speech in court, but will still foot the bill despite frustration. YAF and BCR are not easily deterred and want to put on the most successful event possible.
Berkeley seems very willing to enforce subjective, unwritten policies when dealing with conservative organizations. However, when it comes to quashing political violence that endangers public safety, they timidly enforce laws that maintain the social contract. This was abundantly clear on August 27, when Berkeley’s Police were given a stand down order to allow Antifa ravage the city and maim peaceful right-wing demonstrators.
On Aug. 31, I attempted to discuss logistical details further with Cal Performances administrators we had been in contact with. I was accompanied by YAF representative Amy Lutz. We visited the office three times in the span of a few hours urgently requesting to meet with the representatives, but the office stonewalled our attempts to solve logistical issues.
I told the Daily Wire, “The university has an obligation to protect the first amendment rights of all its students. This repeated stonewalling is a tactic used frequently to stifle free speech on campus by the university. After attending a meeting with Rob and Gina (Cal Performance Administrators) on Monday, I was optimistic that we could continue with an open line of communication. The events of today, however, have made me deeply disappointed in the university’s lack of urgency and responsibility.”
On Sept. 1, the university consulted the UCPD to do a secondary security assessment, but did not give BCR or YAF prior notice of the meeting or its possible outcomes. The UCPD advised the administration to close Zellerbach Hall’s top two levels for admission, citing “security concerns.” This cuts the tickets available for admission to only 1042. The UC Berkeley’s administration approved of this new policy without notifying BCR or YAF, and failed to formally send documentation of what UCPD recommended, an updated invoice revising the security fee, or even proof this security assessment took place at all.
Finally, Vice Chancellor Sutton of UC Berkeley sent an email providing a weak defense of restricting attendance. The obscure “security concerns” UCPD allegedly cited was none other than the Charlottesville rally that occurred across the country. They also feared “anything thrown from the balcony has potential to seriously harm patrons below and confrontations on the balcony could result in significant injury should someone stumble, trip, or get pushed over the balcony railing,” despite a lengthy list of banned items within the UCPD established perimeter.
The Berkeley College Republicans and YAF are making every effort to provide the utmost security and ticketing logistics in order to distribute tickets to both the student body and the general public. But as I stated earlier, it is clear: UC Berkeley is up to its old tricks of Leftist censorship, but this time in a slimy, hypocritical fashion.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.