Conservative Speakers Not Allowed at Berkeley?

Conservative Speakers Not Allowed at Berkeley
Conservative Speakers Not Allowed at Berkeley

Ann Coulter, a prominent American conservative political commentator, was scheduled to give a speech at the end of this month to students at the University of California, Berkeley, a prominent liberal American university. However, Coulter received notification last week that her speech was being cancelled because of “security concerns.”
After a lot of push-back from Coulter and criticism from the public, the university finally agreed to reschedule the event. And they did. They rescheduled it for May 2, in the middle of the afternoon, in a science hall on the periphery of the campus. If it wasn’t bad enough that it was in a science hall in the middle of the afternoon, what was worse was that it was May 2, which is right in the middle of what faculty and students know as “Dead Week.” Dead Week is when students don’t attend classes because they are supposed to be glued to their books, studying for finals. So basically, Berkeley rescheduled her for a time when there would be the least amount of people possible to attend.
This situation has played out on many American campuses in recent months. It appears to have initially been part of a response to President Donald Trump being elected president, but has developed into a way of purging conservative opinion from college campuses all together. Conservative speakers are invited to speak at liberal universities (what university isn’t liberal these days?), but with all the protests this past year, are told that the university can’t provide security for the speaker and the speech will have to be cancelled.
Berkeley is a university well-known for protests. In fact, it’s historically ground-zero for the student protests of the 60s. And Berkeley, just like many other universities, has been dealing with the problem of violent protests when they host conservative speakers.
In addition, there always seems to be a certain number of non-students who attend these protests who are there to simply stoke the fires of violence and dissension. Most of these are the “professional protesters” who are either paid to be there by an opposing group or they just want to be part of the “excitement” of a riot. They enjoy destroying and setting things on fire, and they seem to have no particular ideology, except for maybe anarchy.
This violence has gone largely unchecked by Berkeley police and university administrators. It was February of this year when a protest broke out in response to the appearance of an editor from Breitbart News, a neo-conservative news site, where windows were broken and fires were set, causing the speaker to be rushed away to safety. And then, the Berkeley College Republicans had to cancel a speech by writer David Horowitz because they received threats of violence.
The administrators from Berkeley used the recent violence as an excuse to cancel Coulter’s speech. They said that, given the recent protests, they had consulted with campus police and had determined that they couldn’t guarantee Coulter’s safety, or the safety of attendees and protesters.
“We have been unable to find a safe and suitable venue,” the letter from Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton read. “Given current active security threats, it is not possible to assure that the event could be held successfully.”
Well, it’s not possible to hold an event successfully when police just stand by and watch the chaos, which was what happened back in February when the Breitbart editor was scheduled to appear. There was really no attempt by police to stop the violence or those committing it. If there had been some real police presence there, it would have made this story non-news.
Administrators at Berkeley tried twice to thwart Coulter from giving her speech. Before they officially cancelled the speech, the administrators asked her to comply with a long list of conditions and as she put it, “ridiculous demands,” before she would be allowed to speak. In an email to the Washington Post, Coulter said that these demands were “just silly,” but she agreed to them anyway. Even after all that, they still canceled her appearance.
So Coulter decided she would go ahead and give the original speech at the original place and time, without the university’s blessing. At first she tweeted, “I WILL BE SPEAKING NEXT THURSDAY,” and said that Berkeley’s trying to cancel the event was tantamount to a ban on free speech at the very home of the free-speech movement. She said she believes that her speech “has been unconstitutionally banned” by the “public, taxpayer-supported UC-Berkeley.”
“I am definitely giving the speech,” she said.
In a letter to the university from attorneys for one of the groups involved in inviting Coulter said not only did the university’s actions violate fundamental principles of free speech, they also referred to Berkeley’s offer to reschedule for May 2 as, “transparently insincere.” They argued that maybe Berkeley administrators don’t officially “censor” speech it doesn’t like, but because they regularly participate in a “mob share” thinking,it has the same effect.
According the the New York Times, in response to Berkeley’s stance, the Berkeley College Republicans as well as the Young America’s Foundation have filed a federal lawsuit against Berkeley. And, it isn’t just about Ann Coulter. When David Horowitz was planning to speak there earlier this month, Berkeley tried to place him a mile away from the campus. So, while Berkeley isn’t officially denying anyone the right to free speech, they certainly are putting a lot of roadblocks in the way that can be interpreted as denying free speech — but only if you’re a conservative speaker.