December 04, 2018
Here are two things you never thought you'd hear in the same sentence: "conservative victory" and "U.C. Berkeley." But, thanks to Young America's Foundation (YAF) and the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR), that's exactly what students are celebrating after a legal win that will bring true diversity back to campus.
For YAF, the idea that students would have to pay more just to host conservative speakers was outrageous. But that was the ultimate effect of the school's Major Events Policy that did its best to block people Ben Shapiro,Ann Coulter, and David Horowitz from campus. First, Berkeley officials tried to relegate these events to "remote or inconvenient lecture halls." Then, they put a 3 p.m. curfew on conservative speakers to try to limit the number of students who could attend. When that didn't work, they tried to impose a $20,000 security fee, which they insisted was necessary because of the "controversial" nature of talks by conservatives like Shapiro.
YAF and BCR sued in April of last year, insisting that the university was violating their free speech rights. The clash with school leadership was so unconscionable that even the Justice Department got involved, filing a statement of interest on behalf of the College Republicans. "[We] will not stand idly by while public universities violate students' constitutional rights," it wrote.
After months of back and forth, U.C. officials delivered the news conservatives had been waiting for: they would settle the lawsuit and rewrite its Major Events Policy. As part of the deal, Berkeley will cover $70,000 of the plaintiff's attorneys' costs and revise the school's rules to accommodate its diverse population. "This landmark settlement means that all students at U.C. 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," said the groups' attorney.
But just because Berkeley called off the legal fight doesn't mean officials are ready to admit they did anything wrong. In a statement, the school insists it was only trying to be stewards of the college's money. "...[W]e see this as the least expensive path to successful resolution of this lawsuit," officials explained. "While we regret the time, effort, and resources that have been expended successfully defending the constitutionality of U.C. 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 U.C. Berkeley has never discriminated on the basis of viewpoint."
Well, they may not be sorry, but they certainly are guilty! Maybe next time Berkeley tries to marginalize conservatives, U.C. will think twice. Until then, we're just as thrilled as YAF, who knows better than anyone that the battle for free expression on our campuses is a necessary one.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.