Update on logistics for ‘Free Speech Week’

This is an update to provide information about the current status of the 11 events that the UC Berkeley student organization, Berkeley Patriot, has proposed to host and organize on the UC Berkeley campus between 9/24-27 and that the student organization is referring to as “Free Speech Week.”

As evidenced by the peaceful facilitation of the Ben Shapiro event last Thursday night, the campus administration and the university as a whole are deeply committed to freedom of speech and to devoting extraordinary security and financial resources to protecting the ability of student organizations to host speakers without regard to the viewpoint expressed by the speaker.

The campus is continuing to work with the student organization on its plans to present events at nine of its 11 tentatively reserved venues. The student organization has, for reasons delineated below, failed to successfully complete its tentative reservations for the use of two indoor venues during the time period 9/24-27.

The campus administration appreciates that the student organization has attempted to satisfy the essential requirements for those events they proposed to hold in Zellerbach auditorium on 9/27 and Wheeler auditorium on 9/24, 2017. In spite of support provided by campus staff and administration to these students, the student organization fell short of what is minimally required by standing policies and standard contracts that apply to every other student organization on the Berkeley campus with regard to their tentative reservations at these two venues.

While Berkeley Patriot did, at the last minute, sign the necessary contracts for these venues late in the day on Friday, 9/15, the student organization failed to fully secure its reservations by submitting the necessary payments by the 5 p.m. deadline. To be clear, the Berkeley Patriot missed a total of three deadlines to execute these contracts. They were told on 8/11 they needed to sign and execute these contracts by 8/18. They did not. They were told on 8/22 they needed to sign and execute these contracts by 8/25. They did not. They were told, in writing, for the last time, on 9/13 that the contracts must be signed and executed by 9/15 at 5 p.m. They did not.

As per the standing policy that governs all events hosted and organized by student organizations, Berkeley Patriot was also required to fill out and return to the Special Events Unit of UCPD Police Services request forms for three of their 11 proposed events. The campus will continue in the coming week to work with the student organization to complete these forms and coordinate the security arrangements that UCPD has determined to be necessary for the events. The student organization had an opportunity to appeal UCPD’s security requirements for their remaining events and did not appeal.

The student organization has also failed to comply with two previous deadlines (9/11 and 9/13) to provide the campus with evidence that speakers are actually confirmed, such as emails, evidence of travel arrangement or contracts. This failure to confirm, combined with the refusal to provide unqualified speaker lists and schedules has led the campus to question whether Berkeley Patriot actually intends to, and/or is able to, carry out the proposed events. These concerns were heightened after a press release was issued by an external, commercial enterprise—MILO Inc.—that purported to list the speakers who would be coming to the Berkeley campus between 9/24-27. Subsequent to its release, the university has been informed by a number of the identified speakers that they had no intention of participating in these events. The student organization has provided inconsistent information directly to the campus regarding speakers and schedules three separate times in the last eight days.

The university cannot defend spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide security arrangements for events based on a press release and inconsistent schedules. The campus will require Berkeley Patriot to confirm the details of its nine remaining proposed events in the coming days.

To be clear, Berkeley Patriot may still continue with planning its “Free Speech Week” if it is able to confirm its speakers, confirm its schedules and comply with UCPD’s security requirements.

Since the middle of July, when the student organization first contacted the campus about these proposed events, staff members have expended significant time and effort to help facilitate planning for these events. All that was asked in return was compliance with the same policy requirements that apply to all student organizations, the same policy requirements that were met by the Berkeley College Republicans in advance of Thursday night’s event featuring Ben Shapiro.

The university has made, and will continue to make, every effort to support the Berkeley Patriot’s right and ability to host speakers of their choice on this campus. The campus has shown flexibility where it is allowed to do so in working with a small group that appears to be struggling to fulfill responsibilities it accepted as a result of the decisions it made. The campus cannot allow this student organization to disregard policy and thus provide it with special treatment that would not be provided to any other student organization on the Berkeley campus.

Should the student organization fail to complete the necessary steps to hold its remaining nine reservations, there is absolutely nothing to prevent them from seeking to reschedule the events they hoped to host for a later date so that they can fully comply with the policies that apply to them and their peers.