Berkeley’s new policy challenges the foundation of college


From @themanspot

Due to recent violent protests against right wing speakers at UC Berkeley, university security officers – like the one pictured above – don riot gear and guns. The cost of this extravagant security will now be a factor in deciding if student groups can invite speakers to campus.

Once upon a time, colleges were a place for open ended discourse; a place prided for political diversity; a place thought to be the epicenter of healthy intellectual debate and discussion. Unfortunately that Utopian place is now a mere fairy tale.

The American collegiate system has reached an all time low with regards to political freedom and first amendment rights on campus. On August 14 of this year, the University of California at Berkeley released a new “events” policy that has managed to slip under the radar of mainstream media. The 29 page policy is everything you’d expect; repetitive, bland, and – generally – trite. That is except for one small caveat: major events hosted by student groups will now first be screened by UC Berkley’s security force, UCPD. According to the policy “ UCPD will conduct a security assessment” and will “assess security needs based on objective and credible evidence of specific risks”. That is to say that the university police office will determine how much money it will cost for a student group to host a speaker which“event sponsors”, A.K.A student groups, “must agree to reimburse”.  If this doesn’t scream tyrannical to you, here are two major problems with this policy that make it so.

Problem 1. While the policy reiterates on multiples occasions throughout that the UCPD’s assessment is not  “based on…viewpoints, opinions, or anticipated expression of event speakers”, the policy will disproportionately affect right wing students and speakers. As on many college campus – but most exacerbated at Berkeley – protests against right wing speakers are large and aggressive. Speakers across the country have been attacked, protesters have pulled fire alarms, and numerous other – often illegal – offenses against the political right have been allowed (or at least poorly punished). Such actions all contribute to the UCPD cost assessment which the student groups are required to pay in order to host their event. This is a very large problem for a multitude of reasons. Why should student groups be required to pay – and to consequently be responsible for – those protesting their event? As reported by The Daily Wire, event organizers had to shell out in excess of $15,000 for conservative speaker Ben Shapiro to speak at Berkeley last September. This is an absurdly high cost that would be a prohibiting factor for almost any smaller school and organization. The fact of the matter is that this high price is specific to right wing events as those are the ones that experience the most protests and consequent security costs. At the end of they day, student organizations should not be responsible for protesters who burn cars, scream fire in crowded rooms and cause – in the case of one conservative speaker at Berkeley – over $100,000 in property damage. The college or university must have a harsher push back against these riots that attack the fundamental point of college: learning. To put that burden on students is absurd and, as previously stated, unequal.

Problem 2. Tightly linked to problem 1, basing who can speak based on the perceived security threat incentivizes violence. In the past, protest organizers have attempted to disrupt speeches through a variety of fear mongering tactics, but now they don’t have to. Under this new policy, protestors have a way of stopping speakers before they can even set foot on campus by creating a perceived threat. Becoming even rowdier, even more aggressive, even more obnoxious will cause the cost assessment to sky rocket. And that will lead to one of two things. 1) forced political censorship due to monetary absence or 2) a rise in violent protests on both ends of the political spectrum. The bottom line is: both of those options are bad.

This new policy by Berkeley is only one of a wave of problematic policies being instituted by colleges and universities across the country. The fact is: college is a place for political and intellectual discourse and tackling tough subjects. College is not a place to be coddled. It honestly isn’t even a place to feel comfortable (within limits). Your opinions should be challenged and you should challenge the opinions of others. That is what is at the heart of a college education. Adding more layers of bureaucracy and unfair regulations is like giving that heart heart disease. It’s slowly killing what makes college great and turning it into a fairy tale story that will soon be forgotten.