Berkeley College Republicans, or BCR, tweeted Sunday that the organization plans to host a range of speakers on campus this year to promote a conservative agenda in its “#YearofFreedom.” The club announced that its first speaker will be Dennis Prager, a conservative radio talk show host, author and columnist, on Feb. 1.
This announcement comes after BCR tried to host Milo Yiannopoulos in February 2017, resulting in violent protests, and after “Free Speech Week,” a four-day event meant to feature a variety of conservative speakers, was canceled in September. Prager hosts a daily radio show and has published many books, including titles such as “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” and “The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism.”
Steven Hayward, a senior resident scholar at the campus Institute of Governmental Studies, will sponsor the event, according to BCR External Vice President Naweed Tahmas.
“Students have shown they are excited to hear Mr. Prager’s lecture and for the opportunity to have a discussion with a speaker who holds a different set of views than the ones that dominant the UC Berkeley campus,” Tahmas said in an email. “We look forward to working with the university again in hosting another successful event.”
Prager could not be reached for comment as of press time.
Tahmas said in an email that BCR plans to host an increased amount of conservative speakers this semester in order to provide students with more opportunities to “hear a diverse range of conservative viewpoints.”
Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said UCPD assesses each event based on its individual merits and that most speakers require little, if any, additional security. UCPD will conduct a security assessment and determine how the campus responds to BCR’s upcoming events, he said.
“We will continue to work with all of the student organizations to support their right to host speakers of their choice,” Mogulof said. “We have an unwavering commitment to free speech and the safety and well-being of the campus.”
Varsha Sarveshwar, development director of Cal Berkeley Democrats, said she believes BCR’s upcoming events are more about provoking controversy and turning Berkeley into a “political battleground” than contributing to meaningful dialogue. She said she finds it ironic that BCR would invite Prager in the name of the First Amendment.
“Many of the things he’s talked about are antithetical to the First Amendment,” Sarveshwar said.
Sarveshwar added that given that 2018 is an election year, Cal Dems will be canvassing, phone banking and mobilizing student involvement in politics. Instead of inviting speakers like Prager, Sarveshwar advised BCR to start dealing with the possibility that their party will be “wiped out” in California’s upcoming elections.
“I would hope that (the events are) not done in order to cause maximum disruption. I don’t have high hopes that that would be the case,” Sarveshwar said.