Chancellor Carol Christ announces updated campus free speech event policy

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Updated 9/12/18: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

Chancellor Carol Christ released a statement Monday outlining the campus’s next steps in updating its policy regarding free speech events, including the conditions surrounding the use of amplified sound.

The Chancellor’s Commission on Free Speech sent its final report to Christ on April 10, detailing several steps the campus could take to avoid violent protests such as the one that occurred in response to Milo Yiannopoulos’ scheduled appearance in February 2017.

In her statement, Christ said the campus will seek to improve communication with the campus community before and during disruptive events. Christ added that the campus aims to balance its commitment to free speech with its dedication to community.

“We will promote more opportunities for constructive debate inside and outside the classroom, supporting campus units, departments, and student organizations which seek to host events that encourage intellectual discourse across political and ideological divides,” Christ said in her statement.

Christ formed the Free Speech Commission in response to the canceled “Free Speech Week” in September 2017. Other issues raised by the commission include Ann Coulter’s canceled visit and the widely protested Ben Shapiro event.

According to the commission’s report, Upper and Lower Sproul plazas have traditionally been considered campus’s free speech zones and were exempt from the Major Events policy. Under the new changes, however, Lower Sproul will no longer be exempt, given its proximity to a large number of student buildings, according to Christ’s statement.

To compensate, the commission recommended that the campus designate West Crescent as a new free speech zone. Once the new policy is implemented, campus administration will not relocate events from West Crescent based on potential disruption, and events sponsored by registered student organizations using amplified sound can be held at West Crescent on “very short notice,” according to Christ’s statement.

“Let’s be clear, the entire campus is a free speech zone in that community members are free to say what they wish no matter where they are,” campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said in an email.

Alexandra Barr, president of BridgeUSA at Berkeley, said the organization’s main critique of the Free Speech Commission’s report is the concept of “free speech zones,” which, according to the report, are areas in which there are fewer time, place and manner restrictions.

“The university as an entire institution should be a free speech zone,” Barr said. “Speaker corners are acceptable, but distinctly calling these areas free speech zones are designating the other parts of campus as unfree.”

Bradley Devlin, the Berkeley College Republicans’ external vice president, expressed disappointment in the report, alleging that the commission’s findings laid blame on the campus’s conservative students.

To do a 180, abdicate themselves of all responsibility, and instead point the finger at the Berkeley College Republicans for exercising our free speech while demanding equal protection at the public fora that is UC Berkeley, is not only absurd, it’s immoral,” Devlin alleged in an email.

The campus currently implements a set of time, place and manner regulations that govern campus protests, according to Mogulof. These guidelines state that protesters may not possess firearms, engage in vandalism or theft, or disrupt teaching in any way, among other regulations.

“The campus will seek to promote discussion across political and ideological divides by encouraging, facilitating, and/or hosting events that bring together people who are interested in engagement and represent the broadest possible range of perspectives and beliefs,” Mogulof said in an email.

Contact Amber Tang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ambertang_dc.

A previous version of this article may have implied that only certain parts of the campus are spaces for free speech. In fact, all parts of the campus are spaces for free speech, but some locations require different arrangements to organize an event.

A previous version of this article may have implied that the designation of free speech zones was established in Chancellor Carol Christ’s statement released Monday. In fact, this designation was established in the final report from the Chancellor’s Commission on Free Speech, which was released in April.