The University of California Berkeley recently notified the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) of yet another restriction on Ben Shapiro’s September 14th lecture. YAF was informed that half the auditorium slated for the speech must be left empty due to a “new security assessment.”
According to YAF, the university’s administrators notified them that half of Zellerbach Hall must be left empty during the lecture “despite the university charging more than $15,000 to secure a fully-filled Zellerbach Hall.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has called such fees unconstitutional.
“This move to limit the number of students able to hear, for once, conservative ideas comes as more than 2,500 individuals have confirmed their desire to hear Shapiro speak at Berkeley via wait list,” YAF emphasized.
YAF detailed the history of their struggle with Berkeley:
Berkeley initially offered Zellerbach Hall as part of a belated, face-saving attempt to salvage its public image and cling to the appearance of supporting free speech in the face of a civil rights lawsuit demonstrating Berkeley’s noted failures to honor the law.
This came after the school claimed their “extensive efforts” turned up zero available venues, and before they assessed a $15,738 “security fee” to secure a fully-filled Zellerbach Hall. This charge was not accompanied by any explanation of what the $15K+ fee provides or a guarantee that such a fee would protect students from being beaten like animals if campus police officers aren’t allowed to do their jobs.
Now instead of releasing tickets for a capacity crowd of 1,978 they’re only allowing 1,042 seats to be used, citing a “security assessment” but not explaining why this assessment wasn’t done earlier, or why other events at Berkeley hosting prominent speakers are not subject to a security assessment leading to a reduction in capacity.
“The lengths UC Berkeley is willing to go to in order to limit conservatives’ exercise of First Amendment freedoms are staggering,” YAF Spokesman Spencer Brown said. “Instead of castigating conservatives, blocking speakers, and limiting attendance, Berkeley’s leadership should be focused on maintaining the rule of law on their campus and holding Antifa and other thugs accountable for their illegal acts.”
Ben Shapiro also tweeted about Berkeley’s requirements for his speech, complaining that the university was not releasing tickets until two days before the event.
UC Berkeley did not immediately respond to a request for comment on YAF’s concerns about limiting the speech’s attendees.
Berkeley has been subject to questions about their openness to free speech after planned speeches by Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos prompted riots and cancellations.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin is calling for the university’s planned “Free Speech Week” event with Yiannopoulos, Coulter, and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon to be cancelled due to concerns over left-wing Antifa riots.