Advancing Free Speech at the University of California, Berkeley

Young America’s Foundation is deeply concerned about the lack of viewpoint diversity and meaningful dialogue on today’s campuses.  Our students are increasingly singled out and discriminated against for expressing ideas that challenge the worldview of their professors and school administrators.

We are pleased to announce a promising opportunity to advance free speech and academic freedom at America’s colleges and universities.

On April 25, 2018, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled in Young America’s Foundation’s favor on the motion to dismiss our lawsuit—Young America’s Foundation v. Napolitano—against the University of California, Berkeley.  The facts of the case involve our students, who sought to host several conservative speakers on campus, and UC Berkeley administrators, who applied school policies giving administrators unbridled discretion to suppress speech based on content.

The Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in our lawsuit in January and applauded our victory in April, stating, “It’s unacceptable when the institutions established to promote diversity of thought and robust debate instead use their authority to stifle these principles on their campuses.”

While our lawsuit proceeds, Young America’s Foundation will be meeting with UC Berkeley administrators at a settlement conference on June 5, 2018, designed to resolve the lawsuit out of court.  Our goal is to persuade UC Berkeley to abandon their unconstitutional policies in favor of a policy that protects the free speech and academic freedom rights of all members of the UC Berkeley community.

To show our good faith, on May 4, 2018, we shared a model policy with UC Berkeley.  The policy includes a Statement on Freedom of Expression, which is based on the University of Chicago’s 2015 Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression.  Thirty-nine colleges and universities have adopted or endorsed this statement, including Princeton University, Columbia University, and Georgetown University.

The Statement on Freedom of Expression includes language added by Young America’s Foundation for purposes of clarity and to provide further assurances to protect students from the improper exercise of discretion by school administrators.  The additional language addresses ongoing concerns regarding UC Berkeley.  UC Berkeley celebrates its history as the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, and yet, it is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers to fight against free speech and for the “right” of administrators to favor politically correct speech and prevent its students from hearing and considering alternate viewpoints.  Thousands of students have already graduated from UC Berkeley since the beginning of our lawsuit.  Our goal is to ensure that upcoming classes of students have the opportunity to hear a diversity of ideas in pursuit of a full education.

It is critical that conservatives, liberals, libertarians, and progressives work together to advance free speech and academic freedom at UC Berkeley and on campuses across the country.

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