Thursday, April 27, 2017

It's official: Berkeley hit with lawsuit over Coulter lecture

The University of California, Berkeley was just slapped with a lawsuit over its mishandling of Ann Coulter's scheduled lecture on campus.

Young America's Foundation (YAF) and the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) filed a suit in federal court suing the school for violating their rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection on Monday. The suit, which is available on YAF's website, names several Berkeley administrators along with University of California President Janet Napolitano as defendants.

"Though UC Berkeley promises its students an environment that promotes free debate and the free exchange of ideas," the suit says, "it had breached this promise through the repressive actions of University administrators and campus police, who have systematically and intentionally suppressed constitutionally-protected expression by Plaintiffs ... simply because that expression may anger or offend students, UC Berkeley administrators, and/or community members who do not share Plaintiffs' viewpoints."

Citing the school's adherence to its vague "high-profile speakers" policy, the suit charges Berkeley with applying the policy in a way that discriminates against conservative speakers.

"By imposing an unconstitutionally vague policy concerning so-called 'high-profile speakers,' and selectively applying that impermissibly vague policy to burden or ban speaking engagements involving the expression of conservative viewpoints," it reads, "Defendants have deprived YAF and BCR of their constitutional rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection."

The suit notes Berkeley's imposition of curfew and venue regulations resulted in the cancellation of two conservative lectures this month alone. It also cites the school's decisions to reschedule Coulter's lecture for a "dead week" and to allow liberal speakers to discuss immigration on campus without facing the same restrictions applied to the 12-time New York Times bestselling author.

"Defendants freely admit that they have permitted the demands of a faceless, rabid, off-campus mob to dictate what speech is permitted at the center of campus during prime time, and which speech may be marginalized, burdened, and regulated out of its very existence by this unlawful heckler's veto," the lawsuit says.

In a statement, Ron Robinson, president of YAF (my previous employer), invoked Berkeley's role in the historical free speech movement, remarking, "It is unfortunate that the very school that is considered the 'birthplace of the Free Speech Movement' is now leading the charge to censor thoughts, ideas, and debate. The University of California, Berkeley's selectively applied approach to 'free speech' is unacceptable."

YAF, which is serving as the lead plaintiff in the suit, confirmed to the Washington Examiner on Monday that Coulter still plans to speak at the originally scheduled time later this week. The organization will livestream Coulter's lecture on its website.


Middlebury Professor Apologizes -- To Rioters For Inviting Charles Murray

Middlebury College seems dead-set on adhering to social justice norms by apologizing for the violence that occurred when social scientist Charles Murray came to speak—not apologizing to Murray, the professor rioters injured, or the students who wanted to hear Murray’s speech, but to the rioters who shut it all down.

In a post for The Middlebury Campus, Bert Johnson, chair of the school’s political science department and an associate professor, apologized to the students who were upset over Murray’s invitation, writing that he should have consulted with dissenting students before co-sponsoring the event.

“The short amount of time between when the event became public and when it occurred gave all of us scant opportunity to listen to and understand alternative points of view,” Johnson wrote. “Most importantly, and to my deep regret, it contributed to a feeling of voicelessness that many already experience on this campus, and it contributed to the very real pain that many people – particularly people of color – have felt as a result of this event.”

You want to know who’s about to be truly “voiceless” at Middlebury? The right-leaning students who invited Murray to talk about economics. Those students were already a minority on campus, and are about to have their right to invite speakers taken away because the majority of campus residents hold liberal viewpoints and the loudest objectors don’t want to hear anything with which they disagree.

It’s Offensive to Treat Charles Murray Like He’s a Nazi
Murray wasn’t invited to discuss the decades-old book that discusses race and the protesters found objectionable. He was there to talk about his 2012 book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America,” which used statistics and research on white Americans to make a point about the class system in this country, which he argues transcends race.

Murray isn’t a provocateur like other speakers who have been forced off campuses. He doesn’t say things simply to get a reaction. When a couple of social scientists gave a transcript of Murray’s speech to college professors and asked them to rate it on a scale of “very liberal to very conservative,” the overwhelming majority of professors who responded rated it as “middle of the road.”

“Some professors said that they judged the speech to be liberal or left-leaning because it addressed issues like poverty and incarceration, or because it discussed social change in terms of economic forces rather than morality,” the social scientists wrote. “Others suggested that they detected a hint of discontent with the fact that Donald Trump was elected president. No one raised concerns that the material was contentious, dangerous or otherwise worthy of censure.”

Yet at Middlebury, Murray was painted as some kind of right-wing racist monster, unworthy of a platform to speak at the college. If someone whose speech is found unobjectionable can be treated this way, any right-leaning speaker can, because the loudest faction of the Left isn’t really interested in shutting down what they call “hate speech,” they just don’t want anyone to hear different viewpoints.

The Rioters Run the Asylum

Middlebury’s Johnson says the college continues to “debate what to do next” and wants to hear from a new committee that has been formed to limit invited speakers. That committee was formed in a student government meeting convened after Murray’s speech.

During that meeting, just one member of the student government stood up for free speech. Several student senators argued for shutting down opposing viewpoints. Sen. Hannah Pustejovsky said Murray’s invitation to give a speech that numerous professors and others found unobjectionable “feels like the community standards were violated.”

Sen. Connor McCormick responded by saying students should be able to invite who they want to campus, even if that person’s ideas are unpopular. Sen. Travis Sanderson said that some speech should not “have equal platforms.” Another senator, Nikki Lantigua, said Murray’s writing “questioned her own existence which has caused her mental health to suffer,” according to the minutes of the meeting. She said she was “exhausted” and felt physical pressure because of Murray’s presence.

Later, Sanderson said “speakers can be shut down” and praised the protesters. The students agreed to table discussion of a bill that would denounce Murray, but voted to create an ad-hoc committee to discuss “the ideas of the community standards” and the legislation that was introduced. Given how many members of the student government claimed that Murray’s speech violated community standards, one can guess what that committee will decide.

Students obsessed with social justice may be winning campus victories by scaring administrators into agreeing with them, but the tide might be turning against them in broader American society. Pundits on both sides of the aisle have denounced the tendency of self-identified liberal or progressive students to act illiberally by becoming violent in response to speech they don’t like. Even President Barack Obama has told students on numerous occasions to engage with speakers they disagree with, rather than trying to shut them down.

More recently, “The Simpsons” made fun of social justice warriors at Yale University. If even pop culture is starting to turn on these students, they may soon find themselves unable to curry favor with college administrators. Those administrators will have to become more afraid of negative publicity from giving in to the demands of the perpetually outraged. With the outraged continually embarrassing themselves with displays of violence and vulgarity, that point may arrive soon.

Ashe Schow is a senior contributor to the Federalist and senior political columnist for the New York Observer. She also contributes to a weekly segment on the Enough Already podcast. She has previously worked for, the Washington Examiner and the Heritage Foundation.


The Cowards of Academia
Now that student mobs at universities around America (and elsewhere in the West) have silenced conservative speaker after conservative speaker, it has dawned on a small number of left-wing professors that the public is beginning to have contempt for the universities. As a result, a handful of academics at a handful of universities have signed statements on behalf of allowing “diverse” views to be heard at the university.

These statements are worthless.

While some of the professors who have signed them may sincerely believe that the university should honor the value of non-left free speech, one should keep in mind the following caveats.

First, the number of professors, deans and administrators who have signed these statements is very small.

Second, while no one can know what animates anyone else, it’s a little hard to believe that many of those who did sign are sincere. If they are, why haven’t we heard from them for decades? Shutting out conservatives and conservative ideas is not new. Plus, it’s easy to sign a letter. You look righteous (“Of course, I support free speech.”) and pay no price.

Third, these statements accomplish nothing of practical value. They are basically feel-good gestures.

If any of the rioting students read these statements — a highly unlikely occurrence — it is hard to imagine any of them thinking: “Wow, I really have been acting like a fascist, rioting and shutting down non-left-wing speakers, but now my eyes have been opened and I’m going to stop. Even though my professors have taught me that every conservative is a sexist racist xenophobic Islamophobic hatemonger, next time one of these despicable human beings comes to campus, I will silently wait for them to finish talking and then civilly ask challenging questions.”

Thanks to left-wing indoctrination that begins in elementary school, most American students do not enter college as supporters of free speech. As reported in The New York Times on Feb. 7, 2017, a Knight Foundation survey found that only 45 percent of students “support that right when the speech in question is offensive to others and made in public.”

If any professors want to do something truly effective, they should form a circle around a hall in which a conservative is scheduled to speak, with each of them holding up a sign identifying themselves as a professor: “I am (name), professor of (department).”

If just 1 percent of the professors on campus — that would mean just 43 faculty members at a place like UCLA — were to stand in front of the building in which a conservative was to speak, that might actually have an impact. If they were then attacked by left-wing thugs, other faculty members would be forced to take a position.

But it won’t happen. It won’t because the university is a particularly cowardly place. And it has been so for many decades. In the 1970s, when I was a graduate student at Columbia University, left-wing students took over classrooms and administration offices. But I recall no faculty members objecting; and the college presidents and deans, were, if possible, even more craven.

Ann Coulter was scheduled to speak this week at the University of California, Berkeley. Last week, the university announced it was canceling her speech, providing the usual excuse that it couldn’t guarantee her safety, or others'. This excuse is as phony as it is cowardly. Berkeley and other universities know well that there is a way to ensure safety. They can do so in precisely the same way every other institution in a civilized society ensures citizens' safety: by calling in sufficient police to protect the innocent and arrest the violent. But college presidents don’t do that sort of thing — not at Berkeley, or Yale University, or Middlebury College, or just about anywhere else. They don’t want to tick off their clients (students), their faculty, leftist activist groups or the liberal media.

Under pressure, Berkeley’s cowardly administration rescinded its cancellation and rescheduled Coulter’s speech during the daytime during pre-finals week, when there are no classes and many students are not on campus. Coulter has rejected these changes and vowed to speak on the originally scheduled date.

So, next time you read a statement by some professors — virtually all of whom, remember, have been silent for decades — on behalf of allowing opinions other than their own to be expressed on their campuses, take it with a large grain of salt. It’s primarily because some alumni are finally withholding funds from their closed-minded alma maters, or because the students they have produced have become so violent even the mainstream media can’t ignore it.

Until they line up to safeguard people like Ann Coulter and stop teaching their students that conservatives are deplorable human beings, their open letters aren’t worth the printer toner that prints them.


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