Controversial author Ann Coulter to talk national immigration policy at UC Berkeley

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Berkeley College Republicans, or BCR, announced Tuesday that it will host Ann Coulter on the UC Berkeley campus, two and a half years after the right-wing author withdrew her controversial campus speech in 2017 amid safety concerns.

Coulter, a self-identified “right-wing polemicist” who has previously garnered criticism for her controversial political views, is scheduled to discuss U.S. immigration policy during her Nov. 20 talk, titled “Adios, America!”

“This issue is especially topical given that President Trump ran and won a campaign partially on the subject,” said Rudra Reddy, BCR external vice president and former Daily Californian columnist. “Given the fact that we are facing a crisis on the border, it would be interesting to bring Coulter to campus to see what she has to say on the subject.”

Coulter’s upcoming event has generated controversy among members of the campus and city communities, with some people citing safety concerns.

“These events always leave vulnerable students feeling unsafe, and turn our campus into a spectacle that’s costly to every student’s education,” alleged Amma Sarkodee-Adoo, ASUC president, in an email. “Since the campus has decided to host this event, I hope that they are really proactive about letting students know that this speaker does not reflect campus values.”

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said in an email that registered student organizations are “legally autonomous and independent” from the campus. As a result, he added, they speak for themselves and do not represent the views of the campus administration.

Manu Meel, CEO of BridgeUSA at Berkeley, said the organization does not support the upcoming Coulter event, adding that he thinks the lecture-style structure of the event is ineffective.

“The fact of the matter is that Coulter’s views hold a lot of weight in this country, whether you agree or disagree,” Meel said.

Meel added that a panel or Q&A event would be more productive, as it gives students the opportunity to challenge or engage with the speaker’s views.

CalDems President Sarah Abdeshahian said in an email that the student organization “vehemently” disagrees with everything Coulter stands for and is disappointed in BCR for hosting the event.

“We are, of course, proud of our campus’s role in the Free Speech Movement,” Abdeshahian said in an email. “However, protecting hate speech is not something to be proud of.”

This is not the first time a scheduled campus appearance from Coulter has generated controversy. In March 2017, student organizations BCR and BridgeUSA at Berkeley announced that they invited Coulter to speak on campus in April, generating backlash from students and community members.

Campus administration later proposed rescheduling Coulter’s event to September, citing safety concerns. The campus reversed its decision one day later, extending an invitation to Coulter to speak in May instead. The right-wing author publicly responded, stating that she still intended to speak on campus April 27.

Coulter eventually announced that she was withdrawing her event after losing support from BCR, BridgeCal and the Young America’s Foundation, or YAF, calling it a “sad day for free speech.”

Mogulof said in an email that this time around, BCR has closely adhered to the campus’s Major Events Policy, which was updated in January 2018 after the campus settled a lawsuit with BCR and YAF. There have been no communication problems with BCR thus far, Mogulof added.

According to Reddy, BCR has worked extensively with UCPD to implement preventative measures, including metal detectors and a clear bag policy. He added that though BCR foresees some security concerns, it is less likely the campus will face the same security risks it did in 2017 given the new measures.

“We will, as we have in the past, take the steps necessary to provide security as per the guidance we receive from our law enforcement professionals,” Mogulof said in an email.

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