UC Berkeley event policy revisions to have minimal effect on campus, administration says

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While Berkeley College Republicans, or BCR, is celebrating amendments to the campus’s Major Events Policy after a lawsuit settlement with UC Berkeley, the campus administration maintains that student organizations will see “no significant changes” to the policy.

The revisions to the Major Events Policy came after Young America’s Foundation and BCR settled a lawsuit with the university, which the conservative groups filed on the grounds that UC Berkeley’s event policy allegedly violated the First Amendment, among other allegations. The changes made to the policy address BCR’s concerns of the administration’s handling of conservative speakers, according to BCR President Matt Ronnau.

BCR released a statement Tuesday celebrating the settlement as a “momentous victory” for free speech, citing greater transparency in security cost requirements for events as a success. BCR claims that the changes to campus policy will prevent “the viewpoint of a speaker as a factor in determining the security fees,” an allegation previously contested by the campus in court.

“The university has never and never will engage in viewpoint discrimination,” said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof. “There’s no significant changes because the existing policy is consistent with the Constitution and the university’s commitment to free speech.”

The agreement requires the campus to eliminate the “complexity” classification in the Major Events Policy — a term previously used by the campus for events that required more resources than the administration or UCPD could readily provide. Among other measures, the new policy will also designate Chancellor Carol Christ or other specific senior administrators as the only campus officials capable of designating an event as “major.”

As part of the settlement, UC Berkeley has also agreed to release a security fee schedule, which will clarify the security costs for various events on campus. The event types listed on the schedule are limited to those hosted by Registered Student Organizations — which include BCR — in classrooms or venues sponsored by ASUC Event Services.

“This lawsuit is great for future Berkeley College Republican events,” Ronnau said in an email. “I certainly hope that the University holds to the agreement, and I hope that universities across the country take note of the momentous victory achieved here.”

According to a campus statement released Monday, the criteria used for establishing security costs remain unchanged, as does the ban on utilizing private security services. If the hosting student organization, speaker or performer requests added security, the campus will not supplement the additional costs in most cases.

Mogulof said he considered none of the changes to the policy significant and that the revised policy would come into effect in the coming months.

“It would be impossible to find an event that happened here in the past that couldn’t happen in the future under the terms of the revised policy,” Mogulof said. “By the same token, it would be impossible to find an example of an event that could not have happened here in the past that could now take place as a result of the revised policy.”

Contact Ronit Sholkoff at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @RonitSholkoff.