UC Berkeley loses lawsuit over its policy of charging right-wing groups more money for security

According to the Daily Californian and the Los Angeles Times, the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) has just settled a free-speech lawsuit involving discrimination against student groups that brought in conservative speakers. Click on screenshot below to see the Daily Cal piece (that’s the UCB student paper):

The first speakers at issue were Ann Coulter, Milo Yiannopoulos, and David Horowitz (invited as part of a mass event), with at least the first two, in my view, not even deserving an invitation. But they were invited by student groups—the Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative student group, as well as the Berkeley College Republicans—and so deserved to speak. Because an earlier visit by Yiannopoulos led to rioting in the streets by his opponents, producing damages of several hundred thousand dollars, UCB decided to impose extra fees on groups who invited speakers thought to require extra security. This was codified in UCB’s “Major Events Policy“:

The first lawsuit maintained that UCB was violating students’ First Amendment Rights by imposing these extra fees (one could call them “a GOP tax”) on controversial speakers, who, of course, are most likely to be conservative.  This could be said to constitute a form of “viewpoint discrimination.”

That suit was dismissed in October of last year, but was refiled, including Ben Shapiro as another speaker for whom onerous protection fees were asked. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a “statement of interest” supporting the conservative plaintiffs, and, before the issue went to court, UCB agreed to settle the case.

Here are the settlement terms as reported by the Washington Examiner:

In the settlement, UC Berkeley agreed to the following terms set by YAF:

  1. Pay YAF $70,000. [JAC: I believe this is for lawyer’s fees]
  2. Rescind the unconstitutional “High-Profile Speaker Policy.”
  3. Rescind the viewpoint-discriminatory security fee policy.
  4. Abolish its heckler’s veto — protesters will no longer be able to shut down conservative expression.

Under these terms, UC Berkeley will no longer be allowed to place a 3 p.m. curfew on conservative events or relegate conservative speakers to remote or inconvenient lecture halls on campus while giving left-leaning speakers access to preferred parts of campus. [JAC: yes, they did this]

YAF and UC Berkeley also agreed to a “fee schedule” that treats all students, student groups, and speakers equally. Unless students are handling money or serving alcohol at an event, there will not be a need for security fees.

The “High-Profile Speaker Policy” was unwritten, but it was presumably UCB’s policy of raising security fees for “high profile” conservative speakers.

Although UCB denies that it engaged in any viewpoint discrimination, it’s hard to see this as anything other than a loss for UCB and a win for free speech. Even though I’m not a fan of any of the speakers the YAF and BCR invited, it’s hard to disagree with their lawyer’s statement, “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.”

It’s ironic that UCB, where the Free Speech Movement started, was fighting this issue from the outset. It’s clearly wrong, and probably unconstitutional, to charge student groups more when a controversial speaker is invited, especially when those speakers are almost invariably conservatives. Strict application of that policy would have the effect of eliminating conservative speakers from campus, simply because campus and city security couldn’t control the rampages of those on the left who insisted in violent protests and “deplatforming” unwanted speakers.

h/t: Malgorzata


  1. GBJames
    Posted December 4, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink


  2. GRU
    Posted December 4, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    You shouldn’t be surprised that the administration at UCB was concerned with restricting free speech; the Free Speech Movement was itself a resistance movement against UC President Clark Kerr and the University administration’s restrictions on student free speech.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 4, 2018 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Speakin’ of Milo and money, I see he’s been busy bitching’n’moaning that he’s $2 million in the hole personally, and has been dunning his erstwhile patrons to kick in some more dough.

    What happens when you try to live off the fat of the land by being the Rightwing’s “pet rock.”

    Buh-bye, MiYi.

    • BJ
      Posted December 4, 2018 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      I hate to engage in schadenfreude, but I can’t help myself with this one. I knew when he burst onto the scene that his success would only last so long. And the man regularly flaunted his rich lifestyle. I doubt he’s still eating at all those fancy restaurants and buying million dollar apartments now.

      Although, now that I’ve read the article, I’m not going to take it at face value. First, the line “Yiannopoulos owe[s] $1.6m to his own company” sounds like it could be very misleading in the context of saying he’s “$2 million in debt”; second, it seems the source of these documents is a rather sketchy one.

  4. Gary Fletcher
    Posted December 4, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Which conservative speakers do we consider worthy to speak at colleges?

    • Dave
      Posted December 4, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      It doesn’t matter who “we” consider worthy to speak (whoever you think “we” might be). The point is that those people in college who do want to invite conservative speakers have the right to hear them without being penalised by punitive security costs, arising from the threat of violent disruption by leftist thugs.

    • Posted December 4, 2018 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Those that get invited.

      • Gary Fletcher
        Posted December 4, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

        I was wondering if anyone would throw out names of political conservatives whose intelligence, integrity, etc., they admired. I’m afraid I don’t know of any, probably because I tend to rarely read conservative thought. I need to broaden my horizons and thought someone might make some suggestions. Or am I too off-topic?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 4, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

          If you’re looking for a historical perspective on conservative thought, try Russell Kirk, especially his book The Conservative Mind.

          Or, hell, go back to responsible conservatism’s taproot itself — Edmund Burke.

        • Posted December 4, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think uou are off topic. But I did not think you were making a serious request for names.
          I don’t kniw of any speakers, left or right ether than ex-office holders or candidates but don’t think that is what you are looking for.

        • Posted December 4, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

          Some here have mentioned Never Trumpers like David Frum, Andrew Sullivan, and Max Boot. They are intelligent, informed, and very good writers. I wonder though whether they really should be called conservatives these days. Putting Max Boot and Ann Coulter in the same political category just isn’t right, IMHO.

          • GBJames
            Posted December 4, 2018 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

            Max would surely object to being so enboxed.

            • Posted December 4, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

              I think he does still refer to himself as a “conservative” though. Perhaps “nut” is a better category for Coulter and Milo.

              • GBJames
                Posted December 4, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

                Yeah, sorry. I wasn’t clear. He would surely keep the original label and consider the others nuts. Which they are.

          • BJ
            Posted December 4, 2018 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

            Hell, Trump supporters too. Steve Bannon is an excellent speaker to have. No matter how odious I find his views, I think it’s important to hear a lot of what he has to say. It’s especially important given he was an (maybe one could say the) architect of one of the most surprisingly successful political campaigns in modern American history. That’s a person that I would want to hear from, not just to know about the campaign and what he did, but to know the arguments that lead him to his conclusions and that animate a surging political movement.

  5. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 4, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Horowitz is one of those former Lefties turned right-wing of whom I dislike both versions.

    A LOT of these seem to come out of Berkeley.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 4, 2018 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      Nothing worse than a reformed Trotskyist like Horowitz — they’re the political equivalent of dry drunks. 🙂

      • Dave
        Posted December 4, 2018 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        I’d say that an unreformed Trotskyist is far worse than a reformed one. The same goes for unreformed far-leftists of any stripe. They are all totalitarian mass-murderers-in-waiting.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 4, 2018 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

          That’s like saying that all arch-conservatives are wannabe Fascists. There oughta be some kinda inverse-Godwin’s Law applicable here.

          • BJ
            Posted December 4, 2018 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

            Concur. But you have to agree with that first sentence. A Trotskyist turned conservative is a hell of a lot better than a Trotskyist.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 4, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    (one could call them “a GOP tax”)

    Well, hell, maybe the idea is that free expression will trickle down to them, the way prosperity does to the poor after a fat-cat tax cut. 🙂

    If there’s anybody can get behind such “voodoo economics,” it oughta be the GOP.

  7. Posted December 4, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I did not know speakers were charged for security. If they can do that, they should require speakers to post a bond to cover security and clean up. The argument that speakers should cover the codt should include the whole cost.

    Or the college should cover the whole cost. That us the method I would perfer.The security threat comes from the students, not the students. I don’t think you should charge the speakers to protect them from the students. That protection and clean up should be paid from funds from the students. The ones who create the problem and create the mess.

    • Posted December 4, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      Threat comes from the students, not the speakers.


    • Derek Freyberg
      Posted December 4, 2018 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      I believe that a fair number of the demonstrators, in particular the more violent of the demonstrators, at the Yiannopoulos non-event were not students but people who came to Berkeley specifically to protest.

      • Posted December 4, 2018 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        Who should pay for security and clean up?
        The speaker
        The group that sponsored snd invited him
        The university

      • Posted December 5, 2018 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        Like the right-wing nuts who travelled to Charlottesville.

  8. BJ
    Posted December 4, 2018 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Good. It’s Berkeley’s responsibility to control their students and ensure they don’t riot/cause violence, not the student groups who invite a speaker that causes certain students to do so. The burden is on the college to maintain a safe environment, not on conservative student groups.

  9. Jon Gallant
    Posted December 4, 2018 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Erudite conservatives who might be invited to speak at campuses, if the campus cultural climate were different: George Will, Heather MacDonald, Peter Hitchens, or Victor Davis Hanson. Thoughtful conservatives can also be found among writers for City Journal. Max Boot used to publish in Commentary mag, but Commentary has gone round the bend lately.

    • BJ
      Posted December 4, 2018 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      There are tons of thoughtful conservatives out there. I think the people asking us to make lists of them are engaging in a worthless exercise (not that I’m implying any ill intent behind it. I just think it’s a fruitless endeavor). One person’s “thoughtful conservative” or “worthwhile Trump supporter” is another person’s hatemongering ideologue who isn’t worth hearing from at all.

    • Posted December 4, 2018 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

      Bret Stephens (the NYT columnist (did I get the name right?)) is one. Also, if you want a current politician you might try some like Sen. Sasse of Nebraska. But there is a lot of chaff to separate from the wheat on the conservative side. Not that there aren’t a share of loonies on the left too.

      Here’s a fun exercise. Name five conservative comedians.

      • Ullrich Fischer
        Posted December 5, 2018 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

        Good point. There was one guy that was on SNL for like a minute but as he became more CONservative, became less funny. On the other hand, name even one ctrl-left comedian. Commitment to an ideology of answers that can’t be questioned, be it extreme left or right, militates against being funny.

  10. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted December 5, 2018 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Much as the kinds of speakers the CONservative campus groups are repugnant to those of us who actually support Social Justice, the development is positive in that it incentivizes University administrators to crack down on the ctrl-left idiots who think that the heckler’s veto and even violence are a legitimate methods of countering abhorrent ideas rather than the tacit admission that you don’t have the intelligence or courage to refute those abhorrent ideas in a free and open marketplace of ideas.

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