Chancellor Christ calls for re-examination of UC Berkeley guest speaker policies

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Audrey McNamara/File

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Chancellor Carol Christ stated that UC Berkeley should re-examine its guest speaker and student organization policies in an email Thursday.

In her statement, she expressed “deep regret” for the stress “Free Speech Week” may be causing community members. This sentiment comes just a few days before Free Speech Week and after Christ declared this academic year a “free speech year” on multiple occasions.

Free Speech Week will take place Sept. 24-27 and will be hosted by controversial conservative author Milo Yiannopoulos and campus publication the Berkeley Patriot.

“We are under the legal obligation to protect free speech,” Christ said in her email. “We should explore whether there should be a limit to the number of events a student group can schedule in a row, whether we should have an annual budget for security costs, and whether criteria for status as a student organization should be reviewed.”

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said there has not been any change to campus policy. He added that the campus policy is open to public comment and review, but student organizations will still have the right and ability to bring speakers of their choice to campus.

“Compliance with the First Amendment is not discretionary,” Mogulof said.

During Wednesday’s 25th anniversary celebration of Alianza, a campus Chicanx/Latinx staff organization, however, Christ acknowledged the “uncertainty and peril” that undocumented students face and how Free Speech Week will affect vulnerable communities.

“Once Free Speech Week ends, we have to come together as a community and think hard about our policies,” Christ said in her address to Alianza on Wednesday.

Harmeet Dhillon, attorney for the Berkeley College Republicans, said Christ’s recent statements on free speech illustrate how the campus marginalizes conservative speech. Dhillon is the lead plaintiff in a First Amendment lawsuit filed against the campus for alleged discrimination against conservative speakers.

Dhillon said if the campus attempts to institute restrictions on student organizations, as mentioned by Christ, Dhillon would include those policies in the lawsuit.

ASUC External Affairs Vice President Rigel Robinson said in an email that if student concerns had been considered earlier in the process, the current situation may have developed differently.

“For any significant event policy reform being considered, it’s imperative that students be actively engaged and deeply involved in the process moving forward,” Robinson said in his email.

Contact Henry Tolchard at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @htolchard.