I have previously criticized the University of California at Berkeley for its highly biased history in dealing with conservative speakers who come to campus. Now, federal judge Maxine Chesney has agreed with the Young America’s Foundation (and the U.S. Justice Department) in rejecting a motion to dismiss by Berkeley — forcing the school to deal with its policies and priorities on the exercise of free speech. The president of the University of California system is Janet Napolitano, former United States Secretary of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama.
The decision in Young America’s Foundation v. Napolitano is critical to forcing schools like Berkeley to deal with the rising anti-free speech movement in the United States — the subject of my lecture this week at Carnegie Mellon University. Having said that, this is a denial of a motion to dismiss where the facts are assumed in favor of the non-moving party, the YAF. Thus, the case must still be proven.
Nevertheless, the “unbridled discretion” afforded under the policies are a matter of concern given their use to effectively bar conservative speakers. It is hard to look at the history of Berkeley and not conclude that this is content-based regulation (and denial) of speech. Indeed, Berkeley and other schools like DePaul University have used the mob to justify cancelling speakers. That institutionalizes the “Heckler’s Veto” so that a mob need only threaten violence and the school then cancels the speech . . . which is what the mob was demanding.
Here is the opinion: Berkeley opinion