The University of California Berkeley settled a lawsuit with Young America’s Foundation after more of a year of litigation in a major victory for Free Speech.
UC Berkeley has agreed to pay $70,000, rescind its “high-profile speaker policy,” which put several procedures in place for hosting events, rescind its security fee policy which has proven to charge higher fees for conservative speakers, and prevent protestors from using the heckler’s veto to shut down events.
The lawsuit came after the College Republicans scheduled an event for The Daily Wire Editor in Chief Ben Shapiro to speak on campus— which the University attempted to block two months before the event, claiming they were “unable to identify an available campus venue.” One month later, the school charged the club $15,738 for “basic security costs.”
The city of Berkeley also paid an estimated $600,000 in security costs for the event which 1,984 attended. The University also blocked up the upper floor for fear of protestors ripping chairs from the ground and throwing them at the audience below.
YAF claims the security fee that administrators charged the College Republicans was three times greater than the fee charged to host left-leaning Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. But now, YAF says UC Berkeley has agreed to charge nothing for security fees unless students are handling money or serving alcohol at the event.
“This landmark victory for free expression means UC Berkeley can no longer wantonly treat conservative students as second-class members of its community while ignoring the guaranteed protections of the First Amendment,” YAF said in a statement. “No longer can UC Berkeley place a 3:00 p.m. curfew on conservative speech. No longer can UC Berkeley ban advertisements for Young America’s Foundation-sponsored campus lectures. And no longer can UC Berkeley relegate conservative speakers to remote or inconvenient lecture halls on campus while giving leftist speakers access to preferred locations.”
YAF called the settlement a “win for free speech” and “a blow to radical Antifa mobs.”
“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,” said YAF Spokesman Spencer Brown. “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.”
In January, the Department of Justice announced its support for the court to hear the lawsuit because officials wanted “to protect against universities — the government really, if you’re a public university — deciding which speech is favored, which ideas are too controversial to even allow to be heard on a college campus.”
In April, a federal judge in San Francisco ordered the lawsuit to move forward.
“This settlement is a huge victory for the 1st Amendment and puts to an end UC Berkeley’s ideologically discriminatory policies,” the Berkeley College Republicans President Matt Ronnau told Lone Conservative in a statement. “No longer can a conservative group be levied an arbitrary security fee or have time restrictions placed on one of their events. Instead, a fair and equitably enforced security fee schedule will be applied to all events, and, in most cases, there will no longer be a fee.”
Ronnau added that he is proud of his fellow club members “for their unwavering allegiance to the ideals that they hold so dear” and grateful for Harmeet Dhillon, the lawyer representing BCR and YAF.
“Harmeet Dhillon has done a fantastic job in bringing freedom of speech back to the Home of the Free Speech Movement, and we are thankful for her work,” Ronnau said.
In May, a months-long study by a commision studying Free Speech by the university blamed conservative speakers for “inciting” leftist violence by insisting to speak on campus.
“Although those speakers had every right to speak and were entitled to protection, they did not need to be on campus to exercise the right of free speech,” the commission states, as reported by Politico. “Indeed, at least some of the 2017 events at Berkeley can now be seen to be part of a coordinated campaign to organize appearances on American campuses likely to incite a violent reaction, in order to advance a facile narrative that universities are not tolerant of conservative speech.”
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.