UC Berkeley pays conservative org $70,000, claims it did no wrong
Monday, after nearly one year of litigation in federal court, Young Americans For Freedom announced a $70,000 settlement with the University of California, Berkeley over the college's restrictive campus speaker policy.
UC Berkeley agreed to pay the conservative organization $70,000, rescind the school's "high-profile speaker policy," retract its security fee policy, and abolish the so-called "hecklers' veto," which allowed protesters to shut down events featuring conservative speakers by triggering security concerns, according to YAF's New Guard.
The settlement agreement explains the university must identify all events throughout the academic year that fall under its "major events policy," the total amount of fees that are paid to UC Berkeley for those events, as well as every reservation from any Registered Student Organization for events amassing 100 or more participants.
In effect, the university updated its “Major Events Policy."
"All criteria for assessing major events must be applied in a viewpoint-neutral manner and without regard to the content of any performance or speaking aspect of the event," according to the settlement. The university also announced the release of a fee schedule for events to help ensure that functions of all types are handled appropriately.
Despite all of these court-ordered changes, Berkeley refused to acknowledge that its major events policy was unconstitutional, as alleged by YAF's lawsuit, saying that "the court rejected plaintiffs’ contentions that the policy gives campus administrators the ability to engage in viewpoint discrimination." Berkeley further noted the settlement required that the plaintiffs dismiss the litigation.
Referencing the $70,000 payment from UC Berkeley to the plaintiffs, the settlement states that "by agreeing to make this payment, Defendants in no way admit that Plaintiffs are or would be a prevailing party in the Litigation."
"While we regret the time, effort and resources that have been expended successfully defending the constitutionality of UC Berkeley’s event policy, this settlement means the campus will not need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in unrecoverable defense costs to prove that UC Berkeley has never discriminated on the basis of viewpoint,” Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said.
The spokesman further explained that these court proceedings will be the cheapest and easiest path. He emphasized that the settlement does not require the university to concede that any of the plaintiffs’ claims of previous viewpoint discrimination have any basis in fact. The settlement agreement confirms that any and all efforts by plaintiffs to prove viewpoint discrimination by the campus have been abandoned.
YAF spokesperson Spencer Brown offered a different perspective, acknowledging the organization's "win" in a separate news release: “YAF’s landmark victory for free expression—long squelched by Berkeley’s scheming administrators who weaponized flawed policies to target conservatives—shows that the battle for freedom undertaken by YAF on campuses nationwide is a necessary one.”
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