Following an intense backlash from conservatives and liberals after cancelling a campus speech by author Ann Coulter, the University of California-Berkeley appeared to change course.
Except, they didn’t really.
In a press conference on Thursday Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks defended the university’s commitment to free speech and said that Coulter could speak on May 2, instead of April 27 as originally planned.
“Given our serious reservations and concerns regarding Ms. Coulter’s stated intentions, last night I asked my staff to look beyond the usual venues we use for large public gatherings to see if there might be a protectable space for this event that would be available during the compressed, and extremely busy, window of time between now and the end of the academic year,” Dirks said.
His staff apparently found “an appropriate, protectable venue that is available on the afternoon of May 2.” He said this venue isn’t regularly used for events such as Coulter’s speech, but it could “both accommodate a substantial audience and meet the security criteria established by our police department.”
He also said he and his staff had informed the Berkeley College Republicans—one of the groups that invited Coulter—and Coulter’s team about the new venue and date. The exact location, he said, would be revealed once everything was finalized.
This essentially means the press conference was for show, because Dirks and his team had not waited for confirmation from Coulter that the updated time and location would work.
Coulter Wasn’t Pleased With Berkeley’s Actions
Coulter took to Twitter after the news conference, and after multiple articles were written about Berkeley’s change of heart (I added a small update about the date change to my article from yesterday, and changed the wording of my later scheduled tweets).
In a series of tweets, she informed her audience that she would continue to speak on April 27, as she had vowed to do even after Berkeley cancelled her appearance due to concerns of violent protests.
GOOD NEWS FOR CA TAXPAYER! You won’t be required to pay $$$$ to compensate me & my crew for rebooked airfare & hotels. I’m speaking on 4/27. https://t.co/gsScwzeDNM
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) April 20, 2017
In addition to facts: We’ve already spent $ for 4/27 Berkeley spc & I can’t do May 2…THERE ARE NO CLASSES AT BERKELEY THE WEEK OF MAY 2!!!
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) April 21, 2017
The week Coulter was scheduled to speak was the last week of formal classes for Berkeley’s spring semester. Berkeley College Republican spokesman Naweed Tahmas told the New York Times that the week of May 2 is referred to as “dead week” because students use it to prepare for the following week’s final exams. Many students leave campus.
Coulter also claimed in another tweet that Berkeley added a “NEW, more burdensome condition” to her speech.
Do not fall for b.s Berkeley press release claiming they “rescinded” cancelation. They added NEW, more burdensome condition on my const rts. https://t.co/bPMuVUEEMY— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) April 21, 2017
Berkeley Treats Coulter Differently Than Her Liberal Counterparts
Berkeley wanted Coulter’s speech to wrap up by 3p.m. on May 2, limiting the possibility of violent protests that have occurred with speakers later in the evening. On Feb. 1, Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at Berkeley in the evening, but he and his team had to be evacuated once members of the extreme Leftist group Antifa showed up and threw fireworks at the building where the speech was to take place.
Harmeet K. Dhillon, an attorney representing the Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation—which was to pay the bulk of Coulter’s $20,000 speaking fee—sent the university a letter threatening legal action if it did not uphold Coulter’s original speaking contract.
Dhillon pointed out that three recently invited conservative speakers – Coulter, Yiannopoulos and David Horowitz – were each treated differently than other, liberal invited speakers.
“In each of the three recent conservative speech censorship instances, UC Berkeley impermissibly has allowed a ‘heckler’s veto’ to suppress the free speech rights of speakers properly invited by recognized student groups, and in each case, did so after first attempting to bully the students out of pursuing their quest to hear these alternative voices by piling on requirement after unconstitutional requirement – ‘security fees,’ inconvenient hours, inconvenient locations, attendance restrictions, and more,” Dhillon wrote.
Dhillon pointed to Maria Echaveste, a former Bill Clinton advisor, whose speech on April 17 received no interference from the university. Dhillon also noted that Berkeley “attempting to manufacture excuses to disallow Ms. Coulter’s speech,” told the student groups that it needed four weeks notice to prepare for the speech, which the attorney contended had been given.
“[N]ow, however, suddenly, an vent set to take place in seven days can instead be accommodated on an altogether new date only twelve days hence?” Dhillon wrote.
Berkeley’s Action Allows Rioters To Win
Coulter went on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program Thursday night to further disparage Berkeley. The school, prior to cancelling her event, laid out requirements for her speech that included an afternoon scheduling that was limited to students and an undisclosed location until just prior to the event. Coulter said she agreed with these “arbitrary and silly” demands. She said the school claimed it was about safety, but after the conservative author gave suggestions that could actually improve safety – telling police not to stand down during violent outbursts and to expel students “engaging in violence, mayhem, or disrupting an invited speaker’s speech – her talk was cancelled.
“None of this has to do with security,” Coulter said.
As I wrote yesterday, Berkeley’s decision to try and cancel Coulter’s speech let the rioters win. Their half-hearted attempt to save face hasn’t sent the message that violence is an unacceptable response to speech. Quite the opposite, the school is still letting the rioters dictate how the school operates.