UC Berkeley Offers to Waive Venue Fee For Right-Wing Speaker Ben Shapiro - NBC Bay Area
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UC Berkeley Offers to Waive Venue Fee For Right-Wing Speaker Ben Shapiro

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    A planned speaking engagement at UC Berkeley featuring conservative author Ben Shapiro is back on, after a number of scheduling issues that have played out in the public. Jodi Hernandez reports. (Published Thursday, July 20, 2017)

    Berkeley College Republicans planned speaking engagement at UC Berkeley featuring conservative author Ben Shapiro is back on, after a number of scheduling issues that have played out in the public. 

    University officials wrote in an email to the Berkeley College Republicans that after "extensive efforts," they had been unable to lock down a campus venue where Shapiro could appear for the Sept. 14 talk — a move the student group had interpreted as "anti-free speech" and "unconstitutional" in a press release.

    But, on Thursday, campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof told KQED that other venues were, in fact, available on the requested date, and that UC Berkeley would underwrite the additional fee for those venues. 

    "We decided not to wait for (Berkeley College Republicans') response (to the email), so we went ahead and checked on those venues regardless,” Mogulof said in the interview. “And we’ve determined that there are other venues available."

    The difficulty, according to the original email from campus officials to the student group, was finding a room that is large enough to fit 500 people at 7 p.m on the requested date on campus. 

    In an email to NBC Bay Area, Mogulof called rumors that the Shapiro talk had been canceled by the campus "categorically false." 

    But Berkeley College Republicans and Young America's Foundation — a right-wing organization that arranges college speaking tours — claimed that the scheduling issue is a long-running pretext for blocking conservative viewpoints, saying it amounted to censorship. 

    "An endless stream of liberal speakers continue to be granted opportunities to speak, unobstructed by time, place or manner restrictions while conservatives are continually treated unequally and repeatedly relegated to the margins of campus activity," the groups said in a joint statement.

    Special attention has been paid to UC Berkeley speaking engagements since Milo Yiannopoulos' appearance sparked protests in February. Following the fracas, President Donald Trump floated the idea of yanking federal funding from the university.

    Berkeley College Republicans and Young America's Foundation also filed suit against the school earlier this year for failing to accommodate Ann Coulter back in April. 

    Upon finding out that the speaking engagement was back on, Shapiro tweeted that he hopes "Berkeley keeps their word." 

    Shapiro uses his web-based “The Ben Shapiro Show” and online columns to support President Donald Trump’s policies and criticize the “self-righteous media.”

    “UC Berkeley’s pattern of suppressing conservative events and speakers through viewpoint-discriminatory restrictions is the basis for the lawsuit,” Berkeley College Republicans vice president Naweed Tahmas said.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    Contact Gillian Edevane through email at gillian.edevane@nbcuni.com. You can also provide feedback by texting or calling her at 669-263-2895, or following her on Twitter at @GillianNBC.