Fees, hurdles increase for student clubs under new policy

Roya Chagnon/Staff

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Many campus students might not see behind the celebrity performers, elaborate lighting and packed crowds of an ASUC SUPERB Productions event.

Campus rising senior and SUPERB co-manager Maggie Azary, however, is familiar with the mountain of paperwork and tens of thousands of dollars required to put on such a performance.

“There are a lot of new policies and price spikes that are happening every semester,” Azary said. “There are so many restrictions in the process of having a show — or any student gathering at all — that it just becomes more and more difficult every year.”

On July 14, UC Berkeley administration released a new draft policy for groups that seek to host events on campus facilities.

The policy — which will be implemented on an interim basis beginning August 13 — retains aspects of current policies, including UCPD security assessments for specific events, as well as a requirement for organizations to assume responsibility for security costs, according to the Office of the Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students. The new policy combines several previous procedures into a single policy “applicable to all student and outside organization-sponsored events.”

“We believe that existing policies can and should be unified, standardized and clarified,” said campus spokesperson Roqua Montez in an email. “It is important for policies to explicitly address procedures for responding to a new set of security concerns that have recently emerged to ensure that events can occur in a manner that minimizes the risk of disruption, maximizes the opportunity for success and keeps participants and the campus community safe.”

Earlier this year, planned speeches by conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos in February and conservative author Ann Coulter in April prompted security concerns on campus. Both speeches were ultimately canceled.

In April, the Berkeley College Republicans, or BCR, and the Young America’s Foundation, or YAF — two of the groups responsible for inviting Coulter to campus — filed a lawsuit against several campus administrators. The lawsuit alleges that the campus violated the First Amendment by discriminating against conservative speech.

Harmeet Dhillon, a lawyer representing BCR and YAF in the suit, said she was glad that UC Berkeley recognized its previous policies for student-sponsored speech on campus as “problematic.”

She added, however, that the new interim policy “does little to address the constitutional defects in the university’s written and unwritten policies,” pointing out the new timeline for approval of event publicity as an “egregious provision in the interim policy,” among other issues.

“Our clients Berkeley College Republicans and Young Americas Foundation view the University’s interim policy in its present form as designed to give the university as much leeway as possible to selectively block conservative and other speakers it deems too controversial,” Dhillon wrote in an email.

The new policy also includes statements that re-emphasize that speaker viewpoints will not influence approval or security measures for events, according to the policy website.

John Rider, a campus rising sophomore and executive board member of BridgeUSA at Berkeley — the organization which co-invited Ann Coulter with BCR — said in an email that much of the new policy is “common sense” to protect students and speakers, adding that BridgeUSA at Berkeley is glad to comply with the written policy.

“It’s nice to have both the clarity of expectations and clarity of process that these rules outline, and we look forward to continuing to host events on this campus,” Rider said in an email. “It is, however, disappointing that our campus political climate is such that we require strict procedure so as to guarantee speaker and student safety.”

Aside from addressing security and safety procedures, the new policy assigns costs to student organizations that they were not previously responsible for, including room rental fees, janitorial costs and building maintenance charges, according to Owen Smith, co-manager of SUPERB’s concerts department with Azary.

“It used to be kind of unclear who was responsible for what … but now it seems like everything has to be accounted for by the group,” Smith said.

Smith said in an email he believes several student groups will “find it very difficult” to meet the standards for the new policy, especially in regards to security.

“The ASUC and University reps that make these policies and decisions are very quick to add further financial hurdles for student groups but are not very supportive of these groups attaining the funding necessary to support these changes,” Smith said in an email.

Contact Valerie Hsieh at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @valhsieh.