Events policy maintains campus commitment to free speech, safety

letter to the editor
Willow Yang/File

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We wish to offer additional comments in response to your recent editorial about the campus’s interim major events policy that applies to nondepartmental users, including Registered Student Organizations, CalGreeks fraternities and sororities, the ASUC and the Graduate Assembly and off-campus clients.

We must note the editorial exaggerates the actual impact of the policy. The policy does not in any way enable the administration to “seize control” of student events. That has never happened, and there is no basis for that assertion.

Since the beginning of the interim review and adoption process, however, the campus has been well aware that the interim policy would need to be modified in response to the needs and interests of our students, as well as new challenges when it comes to providing security for campus events. In that context, we welcome the 400+ responses received to date about the interim policy during the open comment period, and can assure the community that all feedback — especially that of our students — will be carefully considered.

The announced schedule requires completion of the policy’s revisions in time for the spring semester, with further changes possible depending on the recommendations received from Chancellor Carol Christ’s recently announced commission on free speech.

We also want to assure the campus community that both current and future event policies will be content- and perspective-neutral and designed to support students’ rights and abilities to bring performers, speakers and participatory activities of their choice to campus, engage with current issues and hold events in line with their needs and interests.

At the same time, there are underlying realities that we cannot ignore for safety reasons and must account for in any campus event policy: We have 1000+ registered student organizations on the UC Berkeley campus. We have but a few sizable venues on the campus that can accommodate large audiences. Every student organization deserves equitable treatment as we manage demand for event spaces in the context of limited supply.

In addition, the campus cannot ignore the reality that there are extreme individuals and organizations who ready, willing and able to come on to campus and engage in violent, unlawful behavior to either protest or support certain speakers. As a result, in order to make good on our commitment to both the free exchange of ideas and security for our campus community, we must, at times, bring significant numbers of law enforcement reinforcements onto campus. The allied law enforcement agencies we work with across the state need at least 30 days advance notice in order to help meet our police staffing needs for certain events. To add another layer of complexity, the level of needed reinforcements is determined by a UCPD security assessment that draws on information about an event from closed and open intelligence sources. That, too, takes time.

The recent editorial did surface some real concerns students and others have, and we look forward to working with the entire campus community on the most optimal and feasible solutions, while acknowledging the new policy creates some new processes grounded in a practical need to support free speech, students and their security. We will in the future, as we have in the past, provide timely, comprehensive information to the campus as work proceeds on this important effort.

Dan Mogulof is the assistant vice chancellor of public affairs at UC Berkeley.

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