Two conservative, student-led organizations at the University of California – Berkeley have sued the school after it cancelled Ann Coulter’s speaking engagement. The Young America’s Foundation and Berkeley College Republicans allege that UC Berkeley cancelled the event because of Coulter’s reputation as a conservative, Trump-supporting media personality, according to The Daily Beast.
In response, the school released a statement citing similar events that were allowed to happen. They noted that this particular one was causing so much difficulty for students and faculty. That was a concern for public safety. In recent months, outside organizations with both liberal and conservative ideals have come to blows in the city.
To be more accommodating, the university offered an alternate time and date where Coulter could speak before officially cancelling it. However, this new time would take place during “dead week.” That’s a week before finals when there are no classes.
Then the Young America’s Foundation argued that this would take away from the potential impact of Coulter’s appearance.
“Sadly and unfortunately, concern for student safety seems to be in short supply in certain quarters,” said Berkeley chancellor, Nicholas B. Dirks,. “This is a university, not a battlefield.”
“We must make every effort to hold events at a time and location that maximizes the chances that First Amendment rights can be successfully exercised and that community members can be protected.”
After further deliberation, Coulter herself told The New York Times that she wouldn’t be speaking at the campus. She said this as if the event weren’t already cancelled by the university. Maybe she was planning to show up with a megaphone and just start talking one day.
“It’s a sad day for free speech,” she said.
Coulter cited a lack of support from the same organizations that initially fought for her – including the Young America’s Foundation which dropped out as a sponsor on Tuesday.
Berkeley is currently at the center of a legal and ethical battle over free speech. Some would argue that any speech, no matter how bigoted and intentionally harmful, should be protected under the First Amendment. Others feel that isn’t the case. Some believe that the First Amendment protects all speech.
But that isn’t an excuse from being criticized about what is being said.