UC Berkeley creates website devoted to free speech ahead of ‘Free Speech Week’

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UC Berkeley’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs recently launched a website dedicated to free speech as part of Chancellor Carol Christ’s promise that UC Berkeley will have a “free speech year.”

The site includes links to articles about free speech, campus policies on hosting speakers and protesting safely, a list of upcoming free speech events and a timeline of the Free Speech Movement. There is also a Q&A page, as well as a moderated public discussion forum.

According to campus spokesperson Michael Dirda, the Office of Communications and Public Affairs began working on the project at the end of the summer and built the website on WordPress with no external costs over the last few weeks. The website will remain online for at least the next year.

While building the website, the office received feedback from a group of staff members within the Dean of Students’ office, Dirda said.

The website comes at a time when conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos is scheduled to return to UC Berkeley for “Free Speech Week” — a four-day-long event organized by campus student publication the Berkeley Patriot. Yiannopoulos’s previous campus event in February was canceled due to violent protests.

Dirda said the office believed that the campus community would benefit from having a “central hub” of information concerning free speech.

“I hope that the website will help people understand the university’s legal obligations and commitments to free speech as well as why we think it is a value that needs to be preserved,” Dirda said. “I also hope that it helps people realize that the campus recognizes the tensions that come alongside this belief.”

Dirda added that the project is “much broader than Free Speech Week” and that the office will continue to seek community feedback on the website and make additions.

The Berkeley Patriot could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Campus sophomore Jonathan Archer said he felt that some people are confused about the distinction between hate speech and free speech, so the website may help them understand that free speech can include speech that is hateful.

But campus freshman Xochitl Barrios said she did not believe the website is helpful to students of color.

“(The website) doesn’t erase the fact that people (who) are coming to speak are speaking against (minorities),” Barrios said. “Just giving me a timeline of free speech doesn’t keep me safe.”

Contact Hannah Piette at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Hannah_PietteDC.