Carol Christ, the chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley was “delighted” to share the findings of her so-called “Free Speech Commission” in an email this week. The report cites “events last fall which resulted in significant disruption to the campus and challenged our values as a community,” and obsesses over Ben Shapiro’s appearance on the campus through YAF’s campus lecture program. Chancellor Christ claims her Commission “wrestled with some of the most important and complex issues facing [Berkeley’s] campus at this time.”
Give me a break.
Berkeley’s “Free Speech Commission” was just another stunt aimed at maintaining the appearance of being dedicated to free speech (and nauseatingly repetitious claim to being the home of the free speech movement) while continuing to codify their intent to silence conservatives.
The following recommendations were made to allegedly protect free speech at Berkeley:
Organize “counterprogramming” to conservative events
Continue using Berkeley’s flawed and easily-abused “Major Events policy”
“Make the police a less intimidating presence”
Add a third “free speech zone”
Have students self-censor by “voluntarily balancing” their rights with their responsibility to the community
Ironically, all of their findings are unconstitutional.
Among the ridiculous recommendations made by the Commission are a continued use of Berkeley’s “Major Events policy.” This policy is part of Young America’s Foundation’s lawsuit against the school, due to its unconstitutional application, which violated the First Amendment with its imposition of unreasonable fees, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment because of the disparate treatment of conservatives. A federal judge recently ruled YAF v. Napolitano could move forward on these grounds.
The most confounding suggestion is the recommendation that Berkeley “make the police a less intimidating presence during potentially disruptive events.” Young America’s Foundation shed a light on an apparent “stand-down order” given to public safety officers and the dangerous impact of a such a decision. It seems to run against common sense to suggest that the brave officers who’ve been sworn to protect Berkeley students would be told to get lost ahead of events targeted by unhinged anarchist leftists.
In one of the more laughable solutions offered by the Free Speech Commission, the addition of a third “Free Speech Zone” is suggested—a flatly unconstitutional violation of students’ First Amendment freedoms. Adding another speech zone only creates more restraint on speech.
Also unconstitutional is the Commission’s recommendation that Berkeley “establish stronger criteria” for its student organizations that sponsor events with extra security “including a requirement that RSOs submit a public statement explaining how the event comports with the Principles of Community,” a clear use of prior restraint and liberal mob rule that would violate the free speech rights of Berkeley’s student body. Requiring students to speak, in order to speak, is ridiculous. To do so invites the majority to suppress speech that it disagrees with.
It’s been little secret that UC Berkeley coddles its student body of professional whiners—professors canceled class when Shapiro was coming to campus last September for those who couldn’t handle the mere presence of a conservative on campus. But now, Berkeley’s Free Speech Commission is advising the school to “increase communication” about what students and others can do “to protect themselves from a disruptive event.” Berkeley’s pattern of suppressing conservative ideas and speakers and charging unconstitutional security fees proves that when the school says “disruptive event,” they mean any event that doesn’t fall in line with the leftist orthodoxy.
The Commission advises Berkeley to “organize counterprogramming [sic] to empower targeted community members in the face of the most disturbing campus speech events,” continuing to reinforce the ludicrous idea that differing ideas constitute an act of violence. Specifically, the Commission recommends bringing in the discredited, left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center whenever a conservative speaks on campus.
The report goes so far as to ask conservative students to self-censor their ideas by “voluntarily balancing their right to hold events with their responsibility to the community.”
Unbelievably, the last recommendation made by the Commission is to “continue to support a vigorous campus culture of free speech.” If anything, these findings prove Berkeley’s understanding of the First Amendment and respect for free speech is worse than anyone thought. A group appointed under the guise of “Free Speech” solutions managed to produce a list of recommendations that violate the free speech rights of students, censor conservatives, and treat students like toddlers who are incapable of hearing any alternative ideas.
It’s important to note that Chancellor Christ says she supports the recommendations released by the committee, a fact that proves the school’s constant double-speak about supporting academic freedom and the constitution is just that—cheap talk.
It’s this type of blatant disregard for intellectual diversity, constitutionally-protected freedoms, and the rights of its students that led Young America’s Foundation to file its free speech lawsuit against the “crown jewel” of the UC system, and why we continue the fight to protect the rights of all Berkeley students.