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

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.

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  • Patranus

    Here is a novel idea. Why doesn’t the University just enforce the law and arrest the BAMN/ANTIFA members who are committing crimes? Eventually the problem will sort itself out. Instead the University (and city) would rather protect BAMN/ANTIFA (why is Yevette still employed???) instead of protecting the rights of their students. Nothing more than an attempt to skirt court rulings and censor speech.

    • Tizzie Lish

      No BAMN or Antifa members committed any crimes for the Benji Shapiro show so WTH are you talking about?

  • whatever

    “lead plaintiff”

    I’m not a lawyer but Harmeet Dhillon is. Is she really the “lead plaintiff”? That doesn’t sound right (but maybe it is?) Wouldn’t the lead plaintiff be a student?

    • Tizzie Lish

      I think you are correct. A lead plaintiff is the client. A lead attorney on a case may be what Ms. Dhillon is.

  • Bob

    Sneaky and cowardly. She’s basically saying, “the First Amendment prohibits a public university from banning speakers based on their political perspective…buuuuut maybe we can disinvite speakers by creating artificial barriers to their appearances by…oh I don’t know…maybe changing the rules for recognizing student groups to eliminate those that invite insist on inviting speakers with ‘unpopular’ opinions. Or perhaps we should limit the number of speaker events while giving ‘acceptable’ groups an advantage in taking-up the speaker slots.”

    • CSears

      Why don’t you quote what she says rather than invent what she doesn’t say?
      Your fingers will do the same amount of work.

      • California Defender

        Right from the horse’s mouth:

        Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said “Compliance with the First Amendment is not discretionary.”


        Chancellor Christ said, to the raucous approval of a radical leftist race-based group, “Once Free Speech Week ends, we have to come together as a community and think hard about our policies.”

        Apparently it is.

        I think we’re headed towards a major class action civil rights suit.

        • Tizzie Lish

          You are projecting meaning onto Christ’s words that may not be there. One thing I hope UC and its students rethink is who covers the cost of speakers invited by students? It should not be publicly funded with tax dollars. imo.

          This kind of ‘rethink’ does not abridge the phony clam of free speech by the likes of Milo. It simply makes the free speech pay for what it costs to host them. Host away . .and make them pay the costs.

          • California Defender

            I’m projecting meaning? It seems by the thunderous cheering of the leftist race-based Chicano staff organization that they they understood PERFECTLY what she meant. She spoke at their meeting for a reason: To be unequivocal in meaning. In other words, don’t play dumb, Tizzie.

            The threat of violence coupled with excessive “security fees” to supposedly counter it are methods, both direct and indirect, to suppress the freedom of speech. It is Berkeley’s responsibility (and cost) to maintain safety on campus for students and visitors regardless of their political ideology.

            If you think specific groups should have to pay more for public safety, then let’s tax residents of each neighborhood based on the number of police calls. Sound fair?

    • Tizzie Lish

      How do you justify letting student organizations impose such huge costs onto the university? I say let any student group bring any speaker they want as long as that student group, or some patron of that group, pays for venue rental and costs, insurance, security — every dime of security costs, not some meaningless token fee, and make sure the student group and/or the group’s patrons do not use up limited UC resources to proselytize their agenda? whatever the agenda, the speakers’ sponsors should pay for every cent their events cost.

      • California Defender

        Such would encourage people to use the threat of violence to raise security fees and thereby cancel any event they disagree with.

        Tizzie, what form of government do you believe in?

      • Bob

        What California Defender said. Any group could threaten violence to de-platform speakers they don’t agree with. That’s exactly what Antifa is doing and they cannot be allowed to get away with it! Antifa is at fault, not the organization that invited those admittedly dreadful speakers, Ben Shapiro excepted.