Berkeley agrees to host conservative speaker Ben Shapiro

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After facing another flap over free speech, the University of California, Berkeley on Thursday agreed to pay the venue fees in order to host a speech from conservative writer Ben Shapiro.

The conservative website Daily Wire, where Shapiro serves as editor-in-chief, described in a report Wednesday how Berkeley informed the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) and the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) — the two organizations planning the speech — that they are “unable to identify an available campus venue” for the event. Berkeley did not provide an alternative accommodation or date to host Shapiro as a speaker, according to the Daily Wire report.{mosads}

Berkeley later decided that despite the BCR not following the school’s venue booking rules, they would reconsider their pushback against the group’s event request, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). 

“It’s clear that we have a number of workable options,” Dan Mogulof, a top administrator in Berkeley’s public affairs office, told FIRE. “This event is going to happen. We just need to sit down with the College Republicans to talk through the details.”

“We didn’t have any options in terms of the spaces available free of charge,” Mogulof said, adding that they will foot the bill because of their “commitment to free speech.”

Before offering to cover the frees, Berkeley had disputed YAF’s account of not cooperating with the organization for the event. Mogulof had pointed to “unedited copies of email messages” with the group that suggested the university was only unable to find a large enough venue on the day requested by the groups — and offered to host the speech on another day.

The news of the cancellation marked the latest controversy over speeches from conservative figures at the university. The school was criticized for canceling a speech from right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos after clashes between police and left-wing protesters.

The university later canceled a speech from conservative columnist Ann Coulter and has seen multiple showdowns between leftist protesters and right-wing demonstrators throughout the year. 

Following Coulter’s canceled speech, YAF and Berkeley College Republicans sued the school “for placing viewpoint discriminatory restrictions on the time and place conservatives are allowed to speak.” With his own event canceled, Yiannopoulos has promised to return to Berkeley later this year for a “Free Speech Week.”

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