Cal Hacks couldn’t secure Wheeler Auditorium for the opening and closing ceremonies of its October hackathon. The Berkeley Forum couldn’t accommodate all the interested audience members for its recent event with Josh Earnest, former president Barack Obama’s press secretary. Problems like these will only get worse for student groups planning events going forward. The culprit? A hastily concocted campus event policy.
The Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation invited speakers Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter to visit campus in the spring, prompting security concerns. UC Berkeley mobilized, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring in hundreds of police officers as reinforcements. In an attempt to patch holes in its existing events policy, the campus issued interim rules for event planning in August.
Now, with this new policy (still under review), innocent student organizations may suffer the consequences of these security scares. To host an event with more than 200 people, student groups must secure a venue and notify UCPD a ridiculous eight weeks ahead of the planned event.
Most people invited as speakers to campus don’t have their schedules set two months in advance, and it’s nearly impossible to gauge interest and attendance eight weeks out. Additionally, ASUC Senator Nuha Khalfay pointed out during an ASUC meeting that the policy could block students from holding vigils, which by nature cannot be scheduled months ahead of time.
“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,” said Berkeley Forum President Haley Keglovits to The Daily Californian.
The policy holds that campus police will “assess security needs based on objective and credible evidence of specific risks, and not on assessment of the viewpoints, opinions, or anticipated expression of event speakers.” If a campus group disagrees with the security assessment made by UCPD, which could be overly cost prohibitive, it gives them the opportunity to appeal — and appeals go straight to the chancellor.
The policy clearly reaffirms a commitment to free speech in language but seemingly functions to create pipelines for central administration to seize control should an event planning process turn into a PR crisis.
The community feedback period for the new rules ends today. After, the policy will undergo a few more rounds of review before submission to the chancellor for approval in December.
Chancellor Carol Christ constantly reiterates the need for “more speech” to counter hate speech. She should take her own advice by ensuring that the large swath of student groups that actually bring diverse perspectives to the campus don’t get censured by the new policy.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.