UC Berkeley student groups face revised event policy

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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.