UC Berkeley spent $4 million on ‘free speech’ events last year

Violent protests outside of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building forced controversial conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos' event to be canceled.
Daniel Kim/File
Violent protests outside of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building forced controversial conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos' event to be canceled.

Related Posts

UC Berkeley spent close to $4 million on free speech events in the span of one month in 2017, according to documents obtained by The Daily Californian.

From Aug. 27 to Sept. 27, UCPD spent $3,910,259 on security fees and other expenses for three events: counterprotests held in response to the “alt-right” rally Aug. 27; conservative speaker Ben Shapiro’s appearance Sept. 14; and events related to the ultimately canceled “Free Speech Week,” which featured a brief appearance from Milo Yiannopoulos and the Patriot Prayer rally that followed on Sept. 26.

The high price tag far exceeds initial estimates for security costs borne by the campus: The security costs related to Ben Shapiro’s speaking event and Free Speech Week were initially estimated to at $600,000 and $800,000, respectively.

Overall, Free Speech Week cost nearly three times the amount spent on security for the first two events combined, with $190,404 spent Aug. 27 and $836,421 spent Sept. 13, compared to the $2,883,434 spent Sept. 24–27.

The vast majority of UCPD’s expenses went toward reinforcements from outside law enforcement agencies, with $485,283 spent Sept. 13 and $1,858,320 spent Sept. 24–27. UCPD brought in assistance from several agencies, including the Berkeley Police Department, California Highway Patrol and Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

“The number of additional officers we required was without precedent,” said UCPD Chief Margo Bennett in the documents. “We learned a great deal in the course of these events. … I am confident that this experience will be of great benefit in the future, in terms of both operational efficacy and financial planning.”

At a Graduate Assembly meeting Thursday, Chancellor Carol Christ stated that the UC Office of the President had agreed to shoulder half the costs, leaving UC Berkeley to pay about $2 million. This steep expense comes in the wake of Christ’s announcement that the campus is on track to reduce its structural deficit to $57 million by July 2018, down from where it stood at $150 million in 2016.

“There are lots of ways in which I would have preferred to use that $2 million,” Christ said during the meeting. “These expenses are so extraordinary and they’re an enormous burden, certainly on my time and the time of other administrators.”

According to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein, UC President Janet Napolitano chose to split costs with the campus because of the “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding speakers at UC Berkeley in particular. This decision, Klein said, was made shortly after Yiannopoulos’ scheduled event in February 2017 erupted into protests and flames.

Previously, UCOP had agreed to split the $600,000 bill for security fees at Shapiro’s campus event, leaving UC Berkeley to pay about $300,000 of the total cost.

“Event security costs of this magnitude are not sustainable, even as many of the factors that drive them are beyond the control or influence of a University,” Christ said in the documents. “We do not, however, regret having taken the steps that were clearly necessary to support our paired commitment to Free Speech and the safety of the campus community.”

Ashley Wong is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @wongalum.

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

    The confluence of the Trump kleptocracy, Breitbart, youthful speakers on racially tinged topics, and twitter amplification is sadly similar to the description of South Africa here


  • Woolsey

    How expensive can it be to have your police hide when the rioters are out? I guess the rioters damages might have been substantial.

  • Jack Spencer

    Whom shall we blame for this? Those who knew these speakers would incite violent protest and selfishly insisted on getting their way or those who so could not tolerate others points of view, that they found destruction and violent assault as a solution?

    • Killer Marmot

      The second category, please and thank you.

      The first category may have had all sorts of nefarious motives — none of us can read minds — but they had the absolute right to do what they did.

  • BerkPed
    • Killer Marmot

      And that is relevant to the current topic how?

      • That Guy

        relevance is an old school concept

    • lspanker

      From the guy who insists that Antifa were just a bunch of “peaceful demonstrators” who were “provoked” into violence by mean conservatives. Dude, you really need to grow up and get over it. Nobody who has any clue what really happened at the anti-Milo riots believes a bit of your apologistic drivel.

      • Ubisoft Dinghy

        Oh, you were there? What really happened?

  • hoapres

    Liberals believe in free speech as long as you agree with them.

    Otherwise, they don’t.

    • bfg

      No, liberals believe in free speech and invented the concept. Radicals on both sides seek to suppress speech.

  • hoapres

    I am going to establish TX residency and wait for national reciprocity so I can carry a 1911.

    Problem solved.

  • California Defender

    “Event security costs of this magnitude are not sustainable.” -Janet Napolitano


    1. Teach UC students to be more tolerant, civil, and intellectually curious
    2. Go bankrupt

    While I much prefer the first option, both are undeniably positive outcomes.

    • Ubisoft Dinghy

      UC students are not the ones causing problems. Apparently you aren’t familiar with them.

      • California Defender

        Sure. When they put on black hoodies and masks, they’re no longer students, right? Your comment is the exact reason they do so.

        But I applaud your implied suggestion that they tape their student IDs to their foreheads when assaulting people, looting stores, and burning things.

        While we are waiting for this to happen, here are two very simple examples of the 1st Amendment being championed by Berkeley students:


        • hoapres

          We need national reciprocity on CCW. I can go back to TX for a while and become a resident so when I visit CA then I can carry a Glock.

          Problem solved.

          • California Defender

            I don’t think so.

            I’m not an expert on this issue, but I don’t believe California has a “stand your ground” law. So even if CCW reciprocity happens, it would be difficult for law abiding citizens to use a firearm in self defense without facing prosecution. But criminals don’t seem to mind! Just another example of punishing good and rewarding bad.

        • Ubisoft Dinghy

          Your examples are really stupid. Those two videos have nothing to do with assault, looting, or burning. Nor do they contain any evidence that anyone in the video is in fact a Berkeley student. Keep in mind that the Sproul Plaza area of the Berkeley campus is a tourist attraction, not as popular as Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, but the closest thing to it that Berkeley has. It would be interesting to find the status of those people who have been convicted of riot-related crimes while wearing hoodies and masks. By status I mean whether they are Berkeley students. Regarding the “Milo” incident, I could find one article mentioning 9 arrests. From what I can tell from the article, none of them were students and almost all of them were not from Berkeley. http://abc7news.com/politics/9-arrested-during-protest-at-speaking-event-at-uc-berkeley/2419492/

  • Tony Daysog

    Curious: Will the $4 million in expenses be off-set, on the revenue side, by an infusion of $4 million on top of the existing budget? Or, will administration off-set the $4 million in expenses by shifting money already in the existing budget? Any word on how administration will handle the expenditures on the revenue side? Thanks.

  • Killer Marmot

    To reduce such costs in the future…

    1. Those who break the law must be arrested and charged.
    2. University members who violate the codes of conduct must be charged by the university, possibly leading to punishment and even expulsion.

    This must be done no matter what political affiliations are being represented. Depriving students of their full learning experience due to the actions of a small group of thugs is no small thing, and Berkeley should not be afraid of taking strong action.

    • lspanker

      This must be done no matter what political affiliations are being represented.


  • lspanker

    The high price tag far exceeds initial estimates for security costs borne by the campus: The security costs related to Ben Shapiro’s speaking event and Free Speech Week were initially estimated to at $600,000 and $800,000, respectively.

    They wouldn’t have had to spend all that money if certain left-wing loonies didn’t throw violent tantrums every time somebody who dares express a different opinion on their pet issues showed up in town. Really now, this whining and crying is getting quite old. So-called “liberals” (actually some of the most illiberal people in the country) seek to blame conservative speakers for the fact that we have produced a generation of emotionally disturbed cry-bullies who are whipped into violent hysteria every time they hear something they do not like.

  • That Guy

    How much is antifa and BAMN chipping in? How much is being paid by their supporters on the DailyCal?