The University of California-Berkeley College Republicans plan to bring Ben Shapiro to campus in September for a talk on free speech titled, “Ben Shapiro v. Berkeley.”
Shapiro promised to speak “to students of all viewpoints at UC Berkeley,” and challenged UC Berkeley administrators to “not hide behind the heckler’s veto of despicable groups like Antifa to prevent this event from moving forward.”
Shapiro is a frequent target of left-wing criticism, and was even prevented from delivering a speech at California State University, Los Angeles last year when left-wing protesters stormed the venue and pulled the fire alarm.
The UC Berkeley campus, though, has in recent months been the scene of particularly vehement hostility toward conservative speakers, with “anti-fascist” protesters engaging in a violent riot to prevent Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking, after which the mere threat of further “protests” was enough to convince the school to cancel a planned appearance by Ann Coulter.
“The UC Berkeley College Republicans’ last three speaker events were canceled last semester. These continuing infringements of the free speech rights of conservative students on campus deepen the already existing conservative void at UC Berkeley,” CR spokesman Naweed Tahmas told Campus Reform. “As it stands, UC Berkeley has solidified itself as a center for intellectual dishonesty, as only favored viewpoints may be heard on campus, with no meaningful opposition or challenge permitted due to the imposition of unlawful time, place, and manner restrictions on conservative speech.”
Young America’s Foundation spokesman Spencer Brown offered similar sentiments in a statement, presenting the Shapiro invite as a litmus test for the school’s commitment to upholding freedom of speech.
“Berkeley has a choice: To uphold the the First Amendment rights of all students, or once again cave under pressure from extreme leftists and unconstitutionally censor conservative speech,” Brown observed. “Berkeley administrators would be wise to offer the same platform to Ben Shapiro and the conservative students hosting him that they’ve given the parade of leftist speakers who’ve appeared at Berkeley.”
Tahmas concurred, calling the planned speech “a critical test” for Berkeley after its repeated failures to uphold the free speech rights of students.
“It will be a test of whether or not the administration caves in to the demands of the violent left,” he said. “The university already has established a precedent of resorting to illegitimate tactics and secret policies to censor conservative speech on campus.”
“As the nation watches the former home of the Free Speech Movement betray its legacy, the university has an opportunity to reclaim its reputation by standing for the rights of all students, including conservatives, to hear thought-provoking speakers such as Ben Shapiro,” Tahmas continued. “The feedback BCR has been receiving from students has been tremendous. The word has spread across the student body and students are excited for Mr. Shapiro’s visit to UC Berkeley.”
Addressing potential objections to the even head-on, Tahmas added that there will be ample opportunity for Shapiro’s opponents to express themselves peacefully, without having to resort to violence.
“As with every BCR event, the Ben Shapiro event will be structured in a question-and-answer format. This will give an opportunity for students to ask questions to the speaker or to even challenge him in the room itself,” he explained. “Mr. Shapiro welcomes debate. This event will give students of all perspectives an opportunity to discuss the issues Mr. Shapiro raises.”