UC Berkeley must pay $70K and change policies to guarantee free speech for conservative speakers
The campaign of the American left to silence conservatives on campus sustained a massive defeat yesterday, as the University of California, Berkeley reached a legal settlement (text here) to a lawsuit brought against it following cancelation of a speech by Ann Coulter. The co-sponsor of that speech (along with Berkeley College Republicans), Young America's Foundation (YAF) jubilantly announced, in an article by Spencer Brown:
Following more than a year of hard-fought litigation in the hostile Ninth Circuit, Young America's Foundation secured victory for free speech against the University of California, Berkeley. Through YAF's lawsuit and subsequent settlement agreement executed over the weekend, UC Berkeley agreed to the following terms set by Young America's Foundation:
1) Pay Young America's Foundation $70,000.
2) Rescind the unconstitutional "high-profile speaker policy."
3) Rescind the viewpoint-discriminatory security fee policy.
4) Abolish its heckler's veto – protestors will no longer be able to shut down conservative expression.
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.
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.
Further, 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. YAF and UC Berkeley agreed to a fee schedule that treats all students equally. Unless students are handling money or serving alcohol at an event, the security fee will be zero.
Sather Gate, University of California, Berkeley (photo credit: Picryl). Sproul Paza, beyond the gate, has been the scene of many riots since 1964, including the one that shut down Milo Yiannopoulos's speech.
The lawsuit was handled by the Dhillon Law Group, founded by superstar civil rights lawyer Harmeet Dhillon, who also represents James Damore, the Google engineer fired for posting a memo questioning progressive orthodoxy on sex. She issued a press release stating:
This landmark settlement means that all students at UC Berkeley now have the exciting opportunity to hear a variety of viewpoints on campus without the artificial tax of security fees selectively imposed on disfavored speech[.]
As is customary in such settlements, U.C. Berkeley and the other named defendants deny the allegations while agreeing to change policies and pay up $70,000, which presumably will be applied to the plaintiffs' legal fees.
The Daily Californian student newspaper features the statement of the University:
"Given that this outcome is all but indistinguishable from what a courtroom victory would have looked like, we see this as the least expensive path to successful resolution of this lawsuit," Mogulof said in the statement. "While we regret the time, effort and resources that have been expended successfully defending the constitutionality of UC Berkeley's event policy, this settlement means the campus will not need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in unrecoverable defense costs to prove that UC Berkeley has never discriminated on the basis of viewpoint."
There is huge irony in this case in that in 1964, the University of California, Berkeley was convulsed with student demonstrations in the so-called Free Speech Movement that kicked off years of student unrest. At that time, the left demanded free speech, only to reverse itself half a century later following its hegemony on campuses and demand the silencing of dissident voices questioning its shibboleths. With elite academia captured by the left, universities have largely betrayed their mission of open inquiry and sided with the silencers.
This settlement represents a reversal of course – at least at the campus that has played the leading role in the left's assault on civil rights.