UC Berkeley student groups face revised event policy

ucpd_joshua_jordan_file
Joshua Jordan/File

Related Posts

A number of UC Berkeley student groups are facing difficulties in organizing events after the implementation of a new campus event policy in August.

Retaining aspects of previous policies, the policy requires that student organizations assume full responsibility for the facility and security costs of their events. Additionally, at least eight weeks prior to their event, student groups must reserve a venue and file a UCPD services request form.

The revised policy combines several previous procedures into a single list of requirements. It applies to “Major Events,” which are described as events that may have an anticipated attendance of more than 200, interfere with other campus activities or affect campus security. As stated in the policy text, the policy will be applied “without regard for perspectives or positions expressed in connection with those events.”

“We are continuing to work to find the best ways to ensure we can balance supporting our students’ free speech, ensuring safety for our community, and creating a culture of care for all of our students,” said Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Stephen Sutton in an email.

Cal Hacks held their hackathon from Oct. 6-8. Cal Hacks director Jimmy Liu said in an email that the organization could not secure Wheeler Auditorium for their opening and closing ceremonies because they missed the deadline to book the venue.

Cal Hacks has been held at Memorial Stadium for the past three years, and every year, the campus required the organization to pay for security, facility and venue fees for the entire event.

“For us, it’s an unfortunate fact that we’re already used to,” Liu said in an email. “We hope in the future the campus can be more supportive of student organizations — we would rather use the funds to throw a better event.”

On Oct. 12, the Berkeley Forum hosted Josh Earnest, former President Barack Obama’s press secretary. According to Berkeley Forum President Haley Keglovits, the eight-week deadline to secure a venue limited access to the event to only 200 people, despite a larger interested audience.

Keglovits said in an email that speaker schedules are often not finalized far enough in advance for clubs to secure a venue before the deadline. This, in effect, reduces event attendance drastically, according to Keglovits.

“It is certainly possible that we will have to cut attendance to 200 again and won’t be able to accommodate everyone who wants to see a speaker,” Keglovits said in an email. “While we still have the ability to host our events, we certainly will not be able to serve as large of an audience as we have in the past, which is disappointing.”

Manu Meel, executive vice president of external affairs of BridgeUSA at Berkeley, said that the event policy deters students from inviting “constructive” speakers to campus, citing the expenses incurred by having high-profile guests.

Sutton said in an email that the revised policy is currently open to the public for feedback and will close on Oct. 31. According to Sutton, the department is working with the ASUC and student members of the Compliance and Enterprise Risk Committee, or CERC, to “ensure we have robust student feedback.”

Sutton said in an email that as of Wednesday, the campus has received closed to 300 individual comments, of which 90 percent are from students.

Meel stated that BridgeUSA at Berkeley hopes to partner with campus and invite many prominent speakers from both sides of the aisle to participate in “point-counterpoint” panels. Given the high expense, however, Meel added the only way that his organization can bring speakers to campus is if it splits the cost with several other student organizations.

“A lot of student organizations are unable to afford such expensive fees,” Meel said. “Students who are serious about inviting constructive speakers are prevented from doing so.”

Contact Revati Thatte at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @revati_thatte.

Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comment policy
  • cadcam

    Thank your lovely leftist anarchists, like By Any Means Necessary, Antifa, and BLM and others like we saw at Middleburg and Evergreen for this. Your freaking chickens are coming home to roost.

  • Killer Marmot

    Such a policy could encourage radical organizations like By Any Means Necessary, for the more threatening they are, the greater the security costs for their opponents. It rewards bad behavior.

    This policy is suprrizing, given the strong free-speech rhetoric of the chancellor.

    • y_p_w

      It doesn’t. Really, it doesn’t. The costs are uniformly higher, but the security costs are no more than for a noncontroversial event that isn’t expected to draw protests. Security costs are supposed to be determined by the number of expected attendees and the time and circumstances using a formula. I’ve read the interim policy, and it doesn’t assign. Last August they did have a policy that would charge fees for room rentals and janitorial services that weren’t charged previously.

      They are increasing the lead time, and the event organizer is supposed to meet with UCPD to discuss what the security concerns will be for the event. However, if it draws a protest outside the event, the organizer won’t get charged for the police response.

  • Killer Marmot

    Many in Berkeley either overtly or silently approved of attempts — often successful — to disrupt or shut down invited conservative speakers. This is the result.

    There’s a lesson here: the best way to protect your own rights and freedoms is to support the rights and freedoms of those with which you disagree. Rights for only some people are not rights at all.

    • zzz

      But my opinions are actually facts, how else do I make the world a better place if I can’t censor people?

  • Stonedogz

    Sadly … controlling thought by limiting what people hear only works when you murder those who want to listen.

  • Nunya Beeswax

    It’s completely reasonable. The campus shouldn’t have to foot the bill for security for student organizations’ events.

    • California Defender

      How so? This new policy is codifying the heckler’s veto.

      Worse yet, this clear suppression of the 1st Amendment is being implemented by a public institution in state-owned facilities. So harsh are the terms that it limits even what the university purports to be ‘acceptable speech’, which itself is reprehensible from all angles.

      • Nunya Beeswax

        The First Amendment guarantees your right to speak. It doesn’t indemnify you from having to pay costs associated with speaking. I don’t see in the article where it limits possible speakers to “acceptable speech,” but I do see a quoted passage that says the standards are to be applied regardless of a potential speaker’s perspective or position.

        Regardless of how you feel about Milo Yiannopoulos, an $800K bill for his 20-minute appearance on campus is staggering. And the Berkeley Patriot got away with not having to pay any of that. It’s not unreasonable to say to an organization “You want to put on an event? Fine, you’re responsible for it.”

        So let the shadowy figures propping up these Potemkin-village shams purporting to be student groups pony up with the cash for security. And meanwhile, BAMN and RAM can find some other place to have their rumbles.

        • California Defender

          Charging a security fee is limiting speech to either those who can afford it or those who rile up the fewest thugs.

          No hint of favoritism is necessary as Berkeley knows the left will reliably increase threats of violence until the security fee is prohibitive. They also know the right won’t reciprocate which will permit leftist speech for the lowest fee.

          This policy was clearly trialed with Milo before codification. Berkeley determined what dollar amount is prohibitive, the left determined what level of violence must be threatened, and Milo was silenced as a bonus.

          None of this is a desirable outcome.

          • y_p_w

            The security fee is the same regardless of how controversial the speaker is or the anticipated response outside the venue. They’re not being singled out, and even ordinary student events open to the public have to pay that.

          • California Defender

            Is there a small standard fee that is the same for all groups and Berkeley pays everything above it? That is not my understanding of the new policy. Events must be evaluated by UCPD and they determine what the necessary security would be and Berkeley charges the group accordingly.

            That is a heckler’s veto.

          • y_p_w

            Well – here’s the draft/interim policy:

            http://deanofstudents.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/documents/Events-Policy-Draft-8-14-17.pdf

            I see nothing that states that the costs will depend on anything other than the particulars other than the number of attendees. They clearly say that any anticipation of a response by protesters won’t add to the cost of security.

            Additional security fees will not be charged to event sponsors based on concerns that the subject matter of the event or the viewpoints, opinions, or anticipated expression of the sponsors, event performers, or others participating in the event might provoke disturbances or response costs required by such disturbances.

            It does seem to suggest that if there are serious security concerns, they may schedule a meeting with UCPD at least 6 weeks before the event to assess the needs.

      • y_p_w

        Yours is a common misconception that the University of California is owned by the state. It’s publicly supported, but not specifically publicly owned. It’s quasi-public – similar to publicly chartered entities like public ports. They have no legal requirement to allow anybody and everybody to speak in their buildings.

        There is no “heckler’s veto” for securing a building. The costs are generally the same regardless of how controversial the speaker is. That hackers’ group is being charged the same as a political speaker for indoor security given the estimated crowd size. The University is bearing the cost of crowd control outside the building. They even made the mistake of discounting the security fees for the Ben Shapiro event on the rationale that they were demonstrating that they were allowing people to speak regardless of political persuasion. It only seemed to inspire those who wanted the same deal.

        If you want to speak, you’re free to do so any time on campus without amplification like the strange little fiasco a month ago.

        • Killer Marmot

          You are right that no university — public or private — has a duty to allow its auditoriums to be used for any speaking engagement.

          You are wrong in that this does indeed “codify the heckler’s veto.” This policy rewards those groups who threaten to disrupt talks by costing sponsoring groups money, possibly to the point of having to cancel talks.

          • y_p_w

            No. The costs to the organizer are merely based on estimated crowd size and not on any threats of disruption. If it’s a public event at Zellerbach Hall with an estimated packed house, it costs the same whether it’s a student concert or a political speaker invited by BCR. This has been standard for a very, very long time. A lot of student groups spend time fundraising in order to afford to rent on-campus venues.

            The University has been eating the substantial costs of providing crowd control outside the venue. And if they could always apply for an outdoor amplification permit and avoid the steep costs of renting a venue as well as venue security.

          • Killer Marmot

            The above article says “the policy requires that student organizations assume full responsibility for the facility and security costs of their events.”

            That seems pretty straightforward. As I read it, if a contentious speaker results in increased campus security then the sponsoring organization eats the cost.

          • y_p_w

            I don’t think it’s any different than it was before. The only difference seems to be the required request 8 weeks in advance.

          • y_p_w

            Here’s the interim policy:

            http://deanofstudents.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/documents/Events-Policy-Draft-8-14-17.pdf

            Additional security fees will not be charged to event sponsors based on concerns that the subject matter of the event or the viewpoints, opinions, or anticipated expression of the sponsors, event performers, or others participating in the event might provoke disturbances or response costs required by such disturbances.

        • California Defender

          Yes, the UC as an entity is a private corporation that contracts with the state. But I’m not sure about the land and the buildings. I would imagine, especially for newer UCs, such has been provided by the state. State funds are also used to maintain those buildings.

          As for Shapiro, yes, they did not charge him the full amount (they never have for any group – until now). But they did place unwarranted restrictions upon his event such as closing all balconies, limiting attendance to 1/2 the room’s capacity, not issuing tickets until the day of the event, and not placing it on university or venue calendars (no advertising). As for Coulter and Milo, they only offered small venues, those that are far from the center of campus, and at times and on days that limit student attendance.

          That’s even worse than the heckler’s veto.

  • lilmike

    As a longtime event organizer I recognize that being trusted enough to be granted use of a space is one of the hardest permissions to obtain, if not greatest privileges, as without a venue, one is not an event organizer at all, just an outsider. Anyone can bleat their opinions on the internet, but having a tangible platform to espouse one’s views, on a stage, within the buildings owned and operated by another entity is a distinct opportunity not available to the average person. The policy is the inevitable result of an inconsiderate, manipulative, thrill seeking few,who sought to foment chaos, create controversy and ended up exploiting the hospitality afforded on a campus. Using a public institution’s resources to promote selfish daft interests, and put safety and infrastructure at risk does not make it ok. Those that cannot abide simple straight forward organizational terms are free to livestream their “constructive” thoughts from their bunker onto twitter or daily stormer, or whatever chosen media outlet that will have them. Unfortunately, the new vetting procedures will likely punish many unorganized event promoters with less nefarious goals. I believe the University has every right to tighten the access to campus facilities if irresponsible people who seek to use them have no interest in insuring the safety of the public and buildings they wish to stomp around in proclaiming their intellectual, moral, ethnic or racial superiority.

    • California Defender

      “The policy is the inevitable result of an inconsiderate, manipulative, thrill seeking few,who sought to foment chaos, create controversy…”

      If you are going to be honest and forthright, such groups should be identified to provide context. Groups like Antifa and BAMN have long been and done all you identified (and worse – violence) to implement a heckler’s veto which is now affecting your ability to use these public facilities.

      But from the tone of your comment, I can only assume that you sympathize with such groups. Thus, I find your feigned objection to be quite humorous as you’re stuck in a have your leftist cake and eat it too conundrum.

    • zzz

      You could have written that with 1/3 the verbiage, it would also have been clearer.

      I can it in one line.

      “People I don’t like speak on campus, people I do like rioted, I blame the people I don’t like for the cost of rioting.”

    • you seem to be a fan of the hecklers veto

  • zzz

    Antifa and BAMN strike another blow for the people.

    Own it idiots.