Berke­ley notes ef­forts to sup­port free speech

Fights for grants tar­geted by Trump

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY CHRISTO­PHER VONDRACEK

Pres­i­dent Trump has promised to end fed­eral re­search grants for uni­ver­si­ties that don’t “sup­port free speech,” but de­ter­min­ing which col­leges sup­port a mar­ket­place of ideas can present a kind of po­lit­i­cal Rorschach test.

Crit­ics have long de­cried ef­forts to sti­fle or dis­rupt con­ser­va­tive speak­ers at col­lege cam­puses, such as the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, which cited safety con­cerns in can­cel­ing speeches by rightwing com­men­ta­tors Milo Yiannopou­los and Ann Coul­ter in 2017. Mr. Trump cited Berke­ley in his call for end­ing re­search grants, not­ing a re­cent in­ci­dent in which a con­ser­va­tive or­ga­nizer was punched on the cam­pus.

But the not­edly lib­eral univer­sity, which was plagued with vi­o­lence by mostly of­f­cam­pus ac­tivists in 2017, has since hosted sev­eral con­ser­va­tive speak­ers such as Ben Shapiro, Can­dace Owens and Rick San­to­rum, and has paid for their se­cu­rity de­tails.

“In the last year alone, this univer­sity spent more than $4 mil­lion to en­sure that our con­ser­va­tive stu­dents could safely and suc­cess­fully hold events on cam­pus and in­vite speak­ers of their choice to these events,” UC Berke­ley spokesman Dan Mogulof said in an email.

What’s more, in the Feb. 19 as­sault on con­ser­va­tive or­ga­nizer Hay­den Wil­liams, univer­sity of­fi­cials de­nounced the vi­o­lence and called for up­hold­ing free speech, while cam­pus po­lice worked with Berke­ley law en­force­ment to iden­tify and ar­rest the sus­pect — Zachary Green­berg, who, like Mr. Wil­liams, is not a stu­dent at the univer­sity.

“If [col­leges] want our dol­lars, and we give it to them by the bil­lions, they’ve got to al­low peo­ple like Hay­den and many other great young peo­ple and old peo­ple to speak,” Mr. Trump said this month at the Con­ser­va­tive Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Con­fer­ence near Wash­ing­ton.

How­ever, Lynn C. Pas­querella, pres­i­dent of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­i­can Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties, ques­tions how the univer­sity it­self can be blamed — and pun­ished — for the in­ci­dent.

“Hay­den Wil­liams, an out­side speaker, is in­vited to cam­pus, is al­lowed to speak, and some­body — Zachary Green­berg — hits him and is ar­rested im­me­di­ately. What could they do? What could they have done to pro­vide fur­ther pro­tec­tion?” Ms. Pas­querella told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

“The ab­surd al­le­ga­tions re­gard­ing UC Berke­ley’s sup­port for free speech and all of its stu­dents, re­gard­less of their per­spec­tives, have no ba­sis in fact,” said Mr. Mogulof.

At CPAC, Mr. Trump vowed to is­sue an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that would cut off fed­eral fund­ing for re­search grants awarded to uni­ver­si­ties that don’t sup­port free speech on their cam­puses.

“We re­ject op­pres­sive speech codes, cen­sor­ship, po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and ev­ery other at­tempt by the hard left to stop peo­ple from chal­leng­ing ridicu­lous and dan­ger­ous ideas,” the pres­i­dent said. “In­stead, we be­lieve in free speech, in­clud­ing on­line and in­clud­ing on cam­pus.”

The White House de­clined to pro­vide specifics or a time­line for an ex­ec­u­tive or­der.

Sev­eral states, in­clud­ing Florida and Colorado, have banned re­stric­tive “free speech zones” on col­lege cam­puses, and sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties have adopted the “Chicago state­ment,” an af­fir­ma­tion of free ex­pres­sion’s im­por­tance to higher learn­ing. An ex­ec­u­tive or­der would be an ad­di­tional tool to scru­ti­nize schools on free speech is­sues.

“This is a false cri­sis nar­ra­tive that has been cre­ated by Pres­i­dent Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Ms. Pas­querella said. “Every­body is con­cerned about First Amend­ment is­sues and free­dom. You can’t have a lib­eral ed­u­ca­tion without this free ex­change.”

The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice es­ti­mates that aca­demic cen­ters per­form $35 bil­lion in re­search and de­vel­op­ment an­nu­ally for the fed­eral govern­ment. Small tech­ni­cal schools, state-run col­leges and big-league re­search in­sti­tu­tions such as Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity are among the sources of stud­ies on top­ics such as nan­otech­nol­ogy and lit­er­acy teach­ing in ele­men­tary schools.

For many large state col­leges, dis­cus­sions about free speech on cam­pus have long been couched in par­ti­san terms. J.B. Bird, a spokesman for the Univer­sity of Texas at Austin, de­scribed a visit this fall by con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor Char­lie Kirk, who of­fered stu­dents an op­por­tu­nity to de­bate him.

“It’s hard to ex­pe­ri­ence from the out­side, but there was great free speech ex­changes be­tween stu­dents and Kirk,” Mr. Bird said.

Near the event’s end, a stu­dent who dis­agreed with Mr. Kirk threw a cup of wa­ter on an event staff mem­ber. Cam­pus po­lice “im­me­di­ately swooped in” to take the stu­dent to the side and con­verse with him, Mr. Bird said. The stu­dent was charged with a class C mis­de­meanor, but some me­dia out­lets jumped on the in­ci­dent.

“The whole event showed you that there was re­ally pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tion and [it was] a great ex­am­ple of free­dom of speech in ac­tion,” Mr. Bird said. “But dif­fer­ent peo­ple char­ac­ter­ize the event dif­fer­ently.”


The Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley has cited safety con­cerns in can­cel­ing speeches by right-wing com­men­ta­tors, though Pres­i­dent Trump iden­ti­fied the school in his call for end­ing re­search grants.

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