University of California at Berkeley: Prohibitive Security Fee Charged for Controversial Speaker

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of California, Berkeley

Open discussion of Israeli-Palestinian issues can now resume unburdened at the University of California at Berkeley, which has slashed a “security fee” that would have kept a controversial speaker off campus. At Berkeley, members of the Objectivist Club of Berkeley (OCB) turned to FIRE when faced with a $3,000 security fee to host a speech by Elan Journo entitled “America’s Stake in the Arab-Israeli Conflict.” OCB President Dave Zornek was told by the UC Berkeley Police Department that uniformed officers would be required for the event because of the subject matter of Journo’s presentation and previous tension between Israeli and Palestinian student groups. FIRE wrote Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau to protest the prohibitively expensive security fee, citing the Supreme Court precedent banning the act. Berkeley responded less than two weeks later, promising to use only content-neutral criteria for security. As a result, OCB was charged only about $460 for two police officers. FIRE asked Berkeley to publish its content-neutral criteria as soon as possible. The unconstitutional “heckler’s veto” has once again been dealt another blow on college campuses.