Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Nanette Asimov July 2, 2018 San Francisco Chronicle
UC Berkeley will make it easier for campus clubs of all kinds to operate on campus under a legal settlement with conservative students announced Monday.
The campus chapter of a national conservative group, Young Americans for Liberty, had accused UC Berkeley of violating its members’ free-speech rights and sued the University of California in federal court in December.
The case arose after the group applied for formal recognition on campus, which would grant it a portion of campus fees and the right to sponsor guest speakers. Campus officials told Young Americans for Liberty that they would first have to meet with another group, Cal Libertarians, to discuss a possible merger because the two had similar ideological viewpoints.
Young Americans for Liberty refused and took the university to court. They argued that the campus had recognized many liberal student groups whose missions appeared to overlap: Cal Berkeley Democrats and Students for Hillary, for example, and the Queer Student Union and the Queer Alliance & Resource Center.
The students filed their free-speech suit at the end of a tumultuous year at UC Berkeley, in which conservative student groups and right-wing celebrities such as Anne Coulter clashed with campus leadership and left-wing students over their right to meet and speak on campus.
Under the agreement, UC Berkeley will lift its requirement that student groups applying for recognition confer with other similar groups, and merely encourage them to do so.
The settlement also amends campus rules to explicitly state that UC “will not deny or delay” recognition to a student group based on its purpose “or other viewpoint expressed in its application.”
UC Berkeley, which has maintained that its rules were never influenced by any group’s political status, admitted no wrongdoing. As part of the settlement, the UC regents will pay $8,235 to the Young Americans for Liberty at UC Berkeley and its lawyers.
That payment is because the students “did receive one email that was insufficiently clear” about the recognition rules, said Janet Gilmore, a campus spokeswoman.
Cliff Maloney Jr., president of the national Young Americans for Liberty organization, praised the settlement and the university.
“As the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement and a public university, UC Berkeley has done the right thing in agreeing to respect the First Amendment in this matter,” Maloney said in a statement. “I applaud the students for standing up for their constitutionally protected freedoms and advocating for a level playing field.”
Gilmore said in an email that the campus group “will now have full access to the same benefits of campus recognition enjoyed by the 1000+ student organizations on the Berkeley campus.”