On Monday, two Berkeley student groups filed a suit in federal court to challenge the University of California’s plans to reschedule Ann Coulter’s appearance on campus that was supposed to happen on April 27, claiming that the University is attempting to “restrict conservative free speech’’.
“Restricting conservative free speech”:
The national Young America’s Foundation and the UC Berkeley College Republicans filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Northern California. In it, they name UC President Janet Napolitano and other university officials, such as the head of the campus police department, as the defendants.
Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney and a Republican National Committee member is representing the student groups in the lawsuit. In an interview, he said that several progressive leaders, including former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Sen. Bernie Sanders, support the student groups in Berkeley to schedule Coulter’s event.
She said: “It’s the right thing to do. The students have a right to hear different voices on campus. They have a right to invite speakers we have a right to hear.”
In her suit, Dhillon states that the officials at UC Berkeley “freely admit that they have permitted the demands of a faceless, rabid, off-campus mob to dictate what speech is permitted the center of campus during prime time — and which speech may be marginalized, burdened, and regulated out of its very existence by this unlawful heckler’s veto.”
How the controversy started:
Following the two groups’ announcement that Coulter, a best-selling conservative author, will give a speech on April 27, that’s when the controversy started.
At first, the University officials stated that they received information saying that Coulter’s safety would be at risk and so they canceled the event. But then they rescheduled it at May 2, which brought complaints from the student groups and Coulter, as the date is during the university’s “dead week.’’
According to Dhillon’s filing, it’s charging the leading public university of California of aiming “to restrict and stifle the speech of conservative students whose voices fall beyond the campus political orthodoxy.”
The lawsuit argues: “Though UC Berkeley promises its students an environment that promotes free debate and the free exchange of ideas” the University has “breached the promise” due to “expression may anger or offend students, UC Berkeley administrators, and/or community members who do not share Plantiffs’ viewpoints.”
Despite Coulter calling on Twitter the lawsuit “our lawsuit”, Dhillon said that she only represents the two student groups who want to schedule her talk, but not the author herself.