DOJ Puts UC Berkeley on Notice — Justice Is Not Playing Around on Free Speech
The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a statement of interest Thursday in a campus free speech lawsuit against the University of California, Berkeley.
“This Department of Justice will not stand by idly while public universities violate students’ constitutional rights,” said Rachel Brand, the DOJ’s Associate Attorney General, in the press release announcing the statement.
Young America’s Foundation and the Berkeley College Republicans allege that the university adopted a double standard with regard to free speech and particularly high-profile college speakers, according to a press release obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF).
The plaintiffs claim that Berkeley’s “high-profile speaker policy” gave the university license to arbitrarily set curfews, restrictive security costs, and inconvenient venues.
While the DOJ’s statement of interest does not mean that it is taking an official stance on the merits of the case, it does mean that the department will monitor the situation from afar with broad authority.
“The allegations made by the plaintiffs in this lawsuit are unfounded,” Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof told The DCNF. “Berkeley does not discriminate against speakers invited by student organizations based upon viewpoint. The campus is committed to ensuring that student groups may hold events with speakers of their choosing, and it has expended significant resources to allow events to go forward without compromising the safety or security of the campus.”
However, Brand did not exonerate Berkeley in a Thursday Fox News op-ed.
“A new policy at Berkeley, for example, imposes a curfew, security measures, and location restrictions for events that administrators decide are likely to ‘interfer[e] with other campus functions or activities,'” Brand wrote. “It doesn’t require much creativity to turn this policy into a heckler’s veto. If you disagree with a speaker about to visit campus, simply declare his views offensive and threaten to riot, and the speaker will be sidelined.”