Berkeley Patriot alleges UC Berkeley ignored request to subsidize ‘Free Speech Week’ costs

Simran Sarin/Staff

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The Berkeley Patriot alleged that the UC Berkeley administration ignored its requests for the campus to subsidize the reservation and staffing costs for “Free Speech Week,” resulting in the publication missing the campus’s three deadlines for signed contracts and payments.

On Saturday, the campus announced that the Berkeley Patriot lost both Zellerbach and Wheeler halls as venues for Free Speech Week because it failed to submit sufficient payments by its Friday deadline — the third deadline the publication has missed to turn in the necessary documents. But Pranav Jandhyala, news editor for the Berkeley Patriot, alleged that the campus did not give the Berkeley Patriot “deadlines.” Instead, he alleged, the campus was involved in negotiations with the Berkeley Patriot to subsidize the cost of the event.

Jandhyala said the Berkeley Patriot was asking the campus to subsidize part of the cost for Free Speech Week, given that it subsidized the cost for Berkeley College Republicans’ Ben Shapiro event. He alleged that when the campus announced a deadline for the Berkeley Patriot to submit the necessary forms for the event, the Berkeley Patriot would respond and ask about the cost being subsidized and the campus would not respond.

“We were trying to figure out with the university why they chose to subsidize the cost of one speaker and not another,” Jandhyala said. “We don’t expect the entire cost to be subsidized. … (But) they can’t pick and choose which speakers (to subsidize). … We thought that was unfair.”

According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, however, the campus had already refused the Berkeley Patriot’s initial request for the campus to subsidize the cost of Free Speech Week. Mogulof added that although the Berkeley Patriot had repeatedly stated that they took issue with the campus administration’s refusal to subsidize the costs, the group still signed the contracts.

The costs of BCR’s Ben Shapiro event Thursday were subsidized, Mogulof said, because Chancellor Carol Christ wanted to challenge the “false narrative” that UC Berkeley would not allow conservative or libertarian speakers on campus.

“They were asked to sign a contract that is identical — that BCR signed — that is identical to the contract the campus (itself) would sign if they wanted to use Zellerbach,” Mogulof said. “They want preferential treatment. They will not receive it.”

In addition to subsidization negotiations, Jandhyala said that the Berkeley Patriot wanted a clause in their contract that would absolve the group from any potential damage on campus that could result from Free Speech Week, and alleged that this same clause was in the contract for BCR’s event with Yiannopoulos in February, as BCR did not have to pay for damages from the event. Mogulof, however, said this clause was not in BCR’s contract.

The campus only covered the damages and security fee costs for BCR’s Yiannopoulos event in February because the actual event was canceled, Mogulof said, and most of the damages that occurred were outside of the venue the group had reserved.

In a video posted to Yiannopoulos’ website Monday, Yiannopoulos displayed screencaps of emails from the insurance company Philadelphia Insurance Companies, which works with student groups within the UC system, showing that the company had declined to provide coverage for Free Speech Week. Yiannopoulos also alleged that the campus has been trying to prevent the event by avoiding the Berkeley Patriot’s calls and emails.

Mogulof also released a list of speakers confirmed by the Berkeley Patriot in an email sent Monday, with some of the speakers from Yiannopoulos’ Thursday press release still listed, such as Erik Prince and InfoWars radio show host Mike Cernovich. The new speaker list, however, no longer includes Ann Coulter or Steve Bannon.

Several of the events during Free Speech Week will take place on the Savio Steps and Lower Sproul Plaza, according to Mogulof. One event on Sept. 25 is scheduled to take place in Anna Head Alumnae Hall, and Mogulof added in his email that the Berkeley Patriot will not be able to change this reservation because there is not “sufficient time left” for UCPD to make necessary security arrangements.

If the Berkeley Patriot are unable to complete the necessary steps to hold its remaining reservations, Mogulof added, there is nothing to prevent the publication from seeking to reschedule the events to a later date.

“We continue to hope that the student organization will meet its obligations and provide the campus and UCPD with the information needed to complete security arrangements,” Mogulof said in his email. “The University cannot defend spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide security arrangements for events based on a schedule built on a long list of unconfirmed speakers and/or a press release issued by an external commercial enterprise.”

Contact Chantelle Lee and Ashley Wong at [email protected].