At American universities, democracy dies in enforced silence

At American universities, democracy dies in enforced silence
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“Unfair” — that’s how The Washington Post editorial board characterized the Justice Department’s interest in Young America’s Foundation’s case against U.C. Berkeley. In reality, fairness and fair play are all conservative students are asking for from their school’s administrators.

What is unfair is Berkeley’s treatment of students who aren’t in lockstep with the university’s ideological line. Berkeley’s unwritten and unconstitutional “high-profile speaker policy” was applied exclusively to block conservative speakers hosted by conservative students. Berkeley’s subsequent unconstitutional “major events policy” was used solely in attempts to stifle conservative events. As the Justice Department points out in its Statement of Interest:

“Both Policies suffer from the same constitutional defect: they grant University administrators unbridled discretion to decide when, how, and against whom to apply the Policies.”

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Neither conservative students at Berkeley, nor Young America’s Foundation (YAF), are seeking special treatment. We’re seeking the protections guaranteed in the Constitution to ensure fairness of opportunity to advance the foundational values of a limited government, free market enterprise, and a strong national defense.

In a recent editorial calling our case against Berkeley “deeply unfair,” The Washington Post opines that:

“The Justice Department filed a statement in San Francisco federal court urging the judge to reject Berkeley’s motion to dismiss it — no doubt pleasing those on the right, President TrumpDonald John TrumpPaul Ryan defends Navy admiral after Trump's criticism Trump discussing visit overseas to troops following criticism: report Retired Army General: Trump is ‘acting like an 8th grader’ in attacking ex-Navy SEAL who led bin Laden operation MORE included, who love to hate Berkeley.”

This attempt to stereotype conservatives as haters proves our critics haven’t looked beyond their own prejudices. The truth is Young America’s Foundation doesn’t “hate” Berkeley. To the contrary, YAF has a decades-long history of helping student leaders advance conservative ideas at Berkeley — from student government leader Andrew Wong in the 1990s, to current Breitbart editor in chief Alex Marlow and conservative club chair Jiesi Zhao in the 2000s, to today’s conservative club.

As a leader in the conservative movement’s efforts to advance freedom on campus, YAF is all in for the First Amendment — for all students. We have invested our resources to give Berkeley students the opportunity to hear from scholars, writers, and lawmakers. We’ve taken significant risks (including the risk of violence carried out by Antifa thugs and other radical leftists) to support the free speech rights of Berkeley students and help them succeed.

Berkeley’s anti-conservative bias is emblematic of a national problem, one that we’ve seen escalate through this academic year:

These are just a few examples of the way conservatives are treated by their universities, and Young America’s Foundation is offering expertise, resources, and, when necessary, legal counsel in each situation to ensure conservative students receive a fair shake at sharing their ideas. There is no standing to accuse us of hate.

Young America’s Foundation is holding Berkeley accountable. Students, both conservative and liberal, almost never get a chance to hear from a conservative speaker in class, so the university’s sub rosa censorship of speaker sponsorships by student groups deals a double blow to equality and liberty on campus for those who seek to hear our speakers.

The Washington Post tries to congratulate Berkeley for benevolently spending $600,000 on security at last September’s lecture with Ben Shapiro, but how many hundreds of thousands of dollars is Berkeley spending to deprive their own students of basic rights with their white-shoe law firm?

At Young America’s Foundation, we are proud of the bold students who are pushing back against college administrators and faculty so that their peers and students who follow will be able to advance their ideas on campus. The national discussion on the importance of the First Amendment and individual rights on our nation’s campuses is one we need to have. For it is on these campuses where views are shaped that affect our society for generations to come.

It may be true that “democracy dies in darkness,” to quote the paper's new slogan, but democracy also dies in enforced silence.

Spencer Brown is the spokesman of Young America’s Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @itsSpencerBrown.