The University of California, Berkeley has reached a settlement with conservative groups who sued the university over allegations that the school discriminates against conservative speakers in April 2017.
The Berkeley College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation filed suit in 2017 after the university refused to honor an agreed-upon speaking date for the anti-immigration writer Ann Coulter, and imposed new “curfew and venue restrictions” on their speakers, according to One America News Network.
Under the November 30, 2018 settlement, UC Berkeley will also pay the plaintiffs $70,000 in attorney’s fees.
UC Berkeley has reached a settlement with conservative groups who sued the university over allegations that the school discriminates against conservative speakers.
The newly reached settlement is ordering UC Berkeley to repay a $70,000 payment to Young America’s Foundation, one of the groups who filed the lawsuit.
The agreement is being hailed as a “landmark victory for free expression” by the foundation and by Berkeley College Republicans, which is the group at the center of the suit.
“This landmark victory for free expression means UC Berkeley can no longer wantonly treat conservative students as second-class members of its community while ignoring the guaranteed protections of the First Amendment,” Young America’s Foundation said in a statement.
The suit was brought against Berkeley over policies the organization’s said forced multiple cancellations of conservative guest speaking events. The plaintiffs initially claimed right-wing events were subjected to “secretly” measured by school administrators.
Landmark #freespeech settlement for clients @yaf and @BerkeleyCRs filed with the NDCA today, and may be found at link. Under this new policy, UC Berkeley abolishes its prior speech policy and replaces it with one that treats all speakers equally: https://t.co/I0ONOd3wBZ
— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) December 3, 2018
Campus conservatives planned high-profile events, including lectures from political commentators Ann Coulter and Ben Shapiro in April of 2017, which were both shut down. Other conservative speakers, including Milo Yiannopoulos, have also had their events canceled following campus protests, according to The Hill.
UC Berkeley described the proposed changes in a statement as “non-substantive,” and said the plaintiffs’ claims that university officials discriminated against conservative speakers was completely unsubstantiated.
“Given that this outcome is all but indistinguishable from what a courtroom victory would have looked like, we see this as the least expensive path to successful resolution of this lawsuit,” a spokesman for the university Dan Mogulof said.
“While we regret the time, effort and resources that have been expended successfully defending the constitutionality of UC Berkeley’s event policy, this settlement means the campus will not need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in unrecoverable defense costs to prove that UC Berkeley has never discriminated on the basis of viewpoint,” Mogulof added.
Change Of Speaker Policies
As part of the settlement, the university is considering eliminating “complexity” as a criterion for determining whether a campus event is major. Major events include those that raise safety or security concerns.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions also backed the student’s legal battle and condemned school censorship. He later highlighted the importance of having an open conversation even if they lead to discomfort between peers.
“It’s time to stand up to the bullies on campus, and the bullies in our culture,” Sessions said. “There are radicals out there that have openly and systematically justified actions that would deny Americans their right to speak out against their favorite ideological agenda–we must put an end to such nonsense.”
Per the settlement, the university will not have to admit to disproportionately disparaging the requests of certain student groups.
The university has also committed to publishing a fee schedule for security costs that student organizations hosting speakers must bear, in order to improve transparency around the costs associated with hosting guests on campus.