In a push toward more ideological diversity on campus, a UC Berkeley student group has invited conservative commentator and author Ben Shapiro to the university for a September talk.
The planned speech follows a string of high-profile events, featuring conservative personalities Ann Coulter, Milo Yiannopoulos and David Horowitz, that were canceled amid protests and security concerns. But Shapiro may be an exception — he last appeared on campus in 2016 without incident.
Student group Berkeley College Republicans invited Shapiro to speak on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. The event is facilitated by the Young America's Foundation, an organization that routinely arranges and gives financial backing to conservative talks at colleges.
The event will be in question-and-answer format, giving students an opportunity to "challenge him in the room," according to Berkeley College Republicans.
"It will be a test of whether or not the administration caves into the demands of the violent left," said Naweed Tahmas, the group's spokesperson.
UC Berkeley faced criticism for not doing enough to stifle the violent and destructive Milo Yiannopoulos protest that occurred in February. A few months later, when Ann Coulter was slated to speak in April, the school said that it could not provide adequate security protections or provide a venue at the requested date, and the talk was canceled. Berkeley College Republicans insist that the cancellation equated to a stifling of their First Amendment rights, and, in conjunction with Young America's Foundation, filed suit against the school.
In a statement, UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogoluf said that Shapiro was welcome to speak.
"We want to state unequivocally that Mr. Shapiro is welcome on the Berkeley campus, and that we will work with the student organization to ensure they can host a safe and successful event," Mogoluf said.
The campus group has requested a space that can accommodate 500 people at 7 p.m., Mogulof said. He added that the school would be working with law enforcement to ensure that Shapiro and students can "successfully exercise their First Amendment rights."
Shapiro is a prolific writer and has a considerable following online, where he hosts the Ben Shapiro show. The 33-year-old Harvard graduate has been vocal in his support for Israel, calling a two-state solution with Palestine "stupid," and is known to blast the media for continuing to report on Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 election.
On occasion, Shapiro has also been known to critique President Donald Trump. A recent column he wrote for the Daily Caller blasts the right wing's habit of using moral relativism to respond to accusations from the left.
I want the President Trump who lives in Mike Pence's head. https://t.co/LcML6XMDiv
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) July 12, 2017
NBC Bay Area has reached out to Ben Shapiro for comments. Check back for updates.
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