Media Coverage 9/25/17

“Free Speech Week” is off. Following a series of conflicting media reports, it emerged that the student organization that had hastily invited a parade of alt-right speakers to campus for a week-long event had backed out. After hosting a video-press conference on Saturday, event headliner Milo Yiannopoulos appeared on campus Sunday without the backing of any student organization. The university spent an estimated $800,000 to muster a police force for the event, which was largely peaceful despite a large contingent of protesters and a smaller but sizable coterie of right-wing activists. During his brief speech, Yiannopoulos made a sex joke and invited his supporters to pray. After interacting with supporters for about 15 minutes, he was whisked away in a GMC Yukon parked outside Barrows Hall. The student organization behind “Free Speech Week” has reportedly filed a civil rights complaint against UC Berkeley for denying their First Amendment rights. The campus was posed to spend millions on security to ensure the week could occur safely.

Turn-of-the-screw stories detailing the on-again-off-again drama of “Free Speech Week” overshadowed two incidents in which individual members of the Berkeley community were harassed by “Free Speech Week” participants. In one incident, posters from the David Horowitz Freedom Center accused community members of supporting terrorism. In another incident, Yiannopoulos posted information online about two students who had been critical of Free Speech Week.

While “Free Speech Week” monopolized media attention, two stories concerning UC’s financial situation made the news. According to the Daily Cal, the administration is considering cutting funding for Berkeley Connect, a program that unites graduate student mentors with undergraduates. The program not only helps undergrads navigate Cal, but also provides funding to graduate students. A Daily Cal editorial urged the administration to protect the program.

Meanwhile, the LA Times reported that over 5,400 UC retirees take in annual pensions worth over $100,000. As the article notes, “Someone without a pension would need savings between $2 million and $3 million to guarantee a similar income in retirement.” According to the paper, “the number of UC retirees collecting six-figure pensions has increased 60% since 2012.”

Free Speech Sunday

9/21 – UC Berkeley students harassed after Milo Yiannopoulos publicly identifies them (DailyCal): Yiannopoulos published photographs of the two students on social media accounts.

9/21 – Posters alleging UC Berkeley community members are ‘terrorist supporters’ appear on campus (DailyCal): Chancellor Christ condemned the posters in a campus-wide email.

9/24 – Milo Yiannopoulos’ brief visit was ‘most expensive photo op’ in Cal history (SFGate): The article offers a ticker-style update of the day’s events.

9/24 – Milo Yiannopoulos’ 15 minutes in Berkeley cost university $800,000 (SJMN): Yiannopoulos argues the campus prevented his supporters from making it to his speech.

9/23 – Yiannopoulos pledges to speak on UC Berkeley campus Sunday, welcome or not (SFChronicle): In a video conference on Saturday, Yiannopoulos said:

We are going to be hosting an event come hell or high water. We will be expressing our constitutional rights to free speech, free expression, on Sproul Plaza, the home of the Free Speech Movement, tomorrow as planned, with or without student help, with or without the cooperation of UC Berkeley itself. The administration has done everything in its power to crush its own students’ aspirations. UC Berkeley has a deservedly poor reputation for free speech.

9/22 – Milo Yiannopoulos’ ‘Free Speech Week’ At Berkeley Falls Apart, Organizers Say (NPR): The article highlights the confusion around what led to the downfall of Free Speech Week.

9/24 – In Sad, Sad Press Conference, Milo Says ‘Free Speech Week’ Is Now Just One Measly Rally (HuffPo): Yiannopoulos appeared beside an anti-Islamic activist and a noted conspiracy theorist and “mens’ rights” activist.

9/22 – Berkeley Patriot files civil rights complaint against UC Berkeley (DailyCal): The complaint is included as a PDF in the story.

9/22 – Let Right-Wing Speakers Come to Berkeley? Faculty Is Divided (NYT): The article highlights a debate among faculty members over how the campus should respond to the incursions of extreme right-wing speakers.

9/23 – Organizers call off far-right festival at UC Berkeley; some speakers plan rally on campus on Sunday (LATimes): The article notes that the 11 members of Berkeley Patriot were divided over whether to cancel the event. The article also cites information that indicates the event was cancelled earlier than acknowledged, though Yiannopoulos denies the claim.

9/22 – Student Organizers Cancel ‘Free Speech Week’ Events at UC Berkeley (KQED): KQED was one of the first outlets to report the cancellation, though their initial report was refuted by some involved upon publication.

9/22 -‘Out of control situation’: Uncertainty looms over cancellation of ‘Free Speech Week’ (DailyCal): This article highlights some of the confusion in the press over whether the event was cancelled following KQED’s report.

9/19 – Press Release: ACLU of Northern CA Corrects the Record on Berkeley Patriot Statement as Reported on KQED’s The California Report (ACLU/NorthernCalifornia): The statement notes the legal organization is not involved in helping Berkeley Patriot.

9/22 – Confusion reigns as far-right Berkeley ‘free speech week’ approaches: Coulter won’t be coming (LATimes): The article notes that one of the event’s planned headliners, Ann Coulter, “never” planned to attend.

9/18 – Milo Yiannopoulos’ far-right Berkeley event is set to occur at birthplace of 1960s free speech movement (LATimes): The article notes Yiannopoulos’ attempts to leverage the history of Berkeley’s campus.

9/16 – ‘Failure to confirm’: Berkeley Patriot loses Zellerbach, Wheeler auditoriums for ‘Free Speech Week’ (DailyCal): One of the first dominoes to fall in what eventually became the cancellation of Free Speech Week.

9/19 – Op-Ed: There’s no crisis of free speech. Milo’s campus crusade is rank hypocrisy (TheGuardian): The author calls the perception of a threat to free speech a myth.

Berkeley Finances

9/24 – UC is handing out generous pensions, and students are paying the price with higher tuition (LATimes): The paper highlights what it frames as excessive benefits:

Nearly three dozen received pensions in excess of $300,000 last year, four times as many as in 2012. Among those joining the top echelon was former UC President Mark Yudof, who worked at the university for only seven years — including one year on paid sabbatical and another in which he taught one class per semester.

9/19 – Editorial: UC Berkeley is considering defunding valuable mentoring program. This is a mistake (DailyCal): The editorial cites research showing the program boosts transfer student GPAs.


Media Coverage 9/18/17

UC Berkeley spent an estimated $600,000 on marshaling a massive police presence to deter violent protests outside a speech by Ben Shapiro last week. In a statement, the campus said the conservative radio host and UCLA grad’s speech went “off with barely a hitch.” Despite fears that Antifa protestors would appear en masse, the campus protest, which drew about one thousand in opposition of Shapiro, was peaceful. Nonetheless, police made nine arrests, mostly stemming from a new City of Berkeley regulation granting the city the power to temporarily ban certain items from public spaces. As the New York Times noted, it’s a sign of the times that Shapiro’s April 2016 appearance attracted little protest.

Coverage of the event in the mainstream press and among left-leaning websites was extensive, with journalists wrestling over how to balance free speech, student safety and the ever-slimming pocketbooks of higher learning institutions. Coverage on the right before the event occurred was prominent, usually framed around the perception of an effort by universities to limit conservative speech. However, after the event’s peaceful conclusion, right-wing coverage was more muted, especially in comparison to reporting on the chaotic scenes at cancelled speeches last academic year. One thing that did not receive a lot of attention in any venue is what Shapiro actually said in his “Say No to Campus Thuggery” event. Watch his full talk, including a Q&A session, here.

Attention has now turned to a so-called “Free Speech Week” planned to run from September 24 to 27, in which a number of conservative icons may appear on campus. The event is spearheaded by Milo Yiannopoulos and is also set to include Steve Bannon and Ann Coulter. Some outlets have questioned whether the event will actually occur, pointing to what appears to be a slapdash approach to logistics by the student group sponsoring the event. According to the New York Times:

Dan Mogulof, a spokesman for the university, said Tuesday that the event’s organizers had not submitted any of the information or forms required for the university to provide security: a description of the events, for example, and a police services request form. The requirements are outlined in Berkeley’s events policy, he noted, and “they just have not completed any of that.”

Ben Shapiro

9/15 – Price Tag to Protect Speech at Berkeley: $600,000 (NYT): The brief article focuses on the cost of the event, and includes a number of photographs, one of which seems to portray a small counter-protest (in support of Shapiro) outside the event.

9/14 – Press Release: Shapiro event goes off with barely a hitch (BerkeleyNews): “We have no regrets for having assembled the forces that we did and for providing police with the resources they requested,” a campus spokesperson said. “It certainly didn’t hurt, and there is reason to believe that it deterred those who might have come with mal intent.”

9/14 – 9 arrested in connection with protests of UC Berkeley Ben Shapiro event (DailyCal): The article contains a list of the nine people arrested, specifying the relevant charges for each.

9/15 – Nine people arrested at Ben Shapiro event at UC Berkeley (SJMN): According to the article, there were no reports of injury of property damage. The article calls the police presence “unparalleled,” noting officers were drawn from all 10 UC campuses.

9/15 – UC-Berkeley braced for protests when conservative writer Ben Shapiro came to campus (WaPo): The article notes the City of Berkeley’s councilors voted to allow police to use pepper spray should things get out of hand.

9/15 – The cost of free speech isn’t cheap at UC Berkeley (AP): The article calls Berkeley a “famously liberal university.” The article notes Berkeley has declined to specify how many officers were called in.

9/14 -Hundreds Protest Conservative Speaker At UC Berkeley; Several Arrested (CBS/AP): BFA Chair Michael Burawoy is quoted as saying:

“There are faculty who don’t think the campus should be the site of this, what they call, political circus…We bring them on campus and allow them to speak and we encourage both right- and left-wing groups” to hold potentially violent protests. “If we exclude them, they say Berkeley doesn’t believe in free speech. It’s a lose-lose situation.”

9/15 – Ben Shapiro’s Berkeley speech wasn’t met with the violence he expected (Slate): The article notes Shapiro referred to affirmative action policies as racist. It also notes Shapiro was an opponent of President Trump’s campaign and left Breitbart for what he perceived to be an unfair bias in support of Trump’s campaign.

9/15 – Ben Shapiro speaks at UC Berkeley despite arrests and protests (FoxNews): The article highlights how some protestors accused Shapiro, who is Jewish, of being a neo-Nazi and white supremacist.

9/15 – Latest Berkeley Protest is Largely Peaceful Amid Heavy Police Presence (WSJ): The Journal article contrasts the peacefulness of the event with previous right wing talks.

9/13 – UC Berkeley free speech in spotlight over super-tight security plans (SFChronicle): The article questions what kind of a precedent the heavy security sets for the campus:

Ben Shapiro, a conservative speaker headed to UC Berkeley on Thursday evening, hasn’t mocked feminists, as right-wing performer Milo Yiannopoulos has done. He hasn’t boasted of being a “mean-spirited bigot,” as far-right author Ann Coulter has done. And, unlike Steve Bannon, ex-adviser to President Trump, Shapiro doesn’t even like the president.

Yet the Harvard Law School graduate, author and political commentator has drawn unprecedented security measures at UC Berkeley for his sold-out speech at the campus’ many-windowed Zellerbach Hall, and Berkeley city police have received permission from the City Council to use pepper spray on any violent protesters who show up.

These defense measures around a standard-issue conservative whose idea of provocative is to call California a “nut-job leftist state” spotlight this question: How left must a speaker be to avoid causing a riot in Berkeley?

9/12 – Editorial: A Political Conservative Goes to Berkeley (NYT): The editorial contrasts the rhetoric of the left-wing protestors opposing Shapiro to the anti-semitic vitriol Shapiro has endured from the alt-right.

9/16 – Op-Ed: Memo to UC Berkeley students: Free speech is the best weapon against the alt-right (LATimes): The author urges campuses to allow alt-right speakers a platform, as their rhetoric will collapse under its own contradictions.

9/15 – Editorial: The Price of Free Speech at Berkeley (WSJ): The editorial says Berkeley’s decision to provide security for Shapiro was a “democratic service,” if an overly expensive one.

Free Speech Week

9/16 – Napolitano pledges to uphold UC’s free-speech tradition (SFGate): Acknowledging that the line between protected speech and hate speech (or harassment) is hard to define, UC President Napolitano told an audience, “If we at UC unreasonably limit the ability of speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter to safely express themselves on our campuses, we are telling the world that we would accept suppression of our own speech.”

9/15 – UC Berkeley professors urge campus boycott during ‘Free Speech Week’ (SFChronicle): A letter has called for a boycott to ensure student safety during the planned event. The petition cites a slew of violent actions that have occurred during such gatherings, including the death of a woman in Charlottesville who was protesting a gathering of white supremacists.

9/15 – Column: Berkeley’s Bind (Slate): The column notes a letter being circulated by the Anthropology Department, which was forced by campus leaders to rescheduled a lecture due to the disruption the event is projected to cause.

9/15 – Speaking at Berkeley With Milo Yiannopoulos? It’s News to Them (Chronicle): The organization behind the event appears to be in disarray. For example, Scholar Charles Murray, who recently had a talk interrupted by left-wing protestors, was listed as a speaker. Murray said he never had plans to attend, saying Yiannopoulos is “a despicable asshole.”

9/12 – Bannon Will Address Berkeley, a Hotbed of Conflict Over Free Speech (NYT): The campus has said student organizers of the event have failed to communicate specific plans with the university, which could jeopardize their ability to host speakers.

9/15 – The Far Right’s “Free Speech” Fest at UC-Berkeley Looks Unlikely to Happen (MotherJones): The article notes that despite the hype, it is unlikely student organizers will be able to meet campus requirements for hosting speakers.

9/15 – Berkeley-Con includes Bannon, Coulter, Milo — but will they show? (SJMN): The article notes one scheduled speaker, Pamela Geller, is a leader of the racist anti-Muslim movement.

Media Coverage 9/11/17

The University of California has sued the Department of Homeland Security, challenging President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA following a six month delay. According to a statement from UC President Janet Napolitano, UC’s legal case rests on three points:

  1. The DHS decision to rescind DACA is not supported by reasoned decision-making as required by federal law. It did not consider the impact of the decision on Dreamers — for example, their expectation that they could study, work, and live in the only country they call home — or the costs of the rescission on the universities and communities in which they live, study, and work. And, most fundamentally, the legal rationale DHS provided was wrong. No court has held DACA unlawful and, in fact, the office at the Department of Justice responsible for reviewing the constitutionality of executive branch actions determined that DACA was lawful.
  2. In ending the program, the administration also failed to comply with mandatory procedures that federal law requires for a decision of this type and magnitude. These procedures, among other things, require the agency to allow and consider public comment on a proposed action from affected parties, such as from the DACA recipients themselves and institutions like UC that are deeply impacted by the decision.
  3. Finally, this action tramples on the due process rights of the University and its students and employees. DHS cannot take away those rights by executive fiat without any process whatsoever.

As a number of media outlets have pointed out, Napolitano helped author the 2012 program while she was Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration. Since then, the order has shielded 800,000 Dreamers from deportation. Despite her strong support for DACA, Napolitano has been criticized by immigrant rights activists for overseeing 2.5 million deportations while with the DHS, as the Sacramento Bee notes in its coverage. Nonetheless, Napolitano has also received praise for her support of undocumented UC students, most notably through the creation of a legal services center. UC’s case is being handled pro bono by Covington & Burling, which employs former US Attorney General Eric Holder.

In other news, the Sacramento Bee covered the disparate proposals for some form of a statewide “free college” program in California. Among the proposals mentioned is the $48 Fix, a plan endorsed by 17 California faculty associations, including the BFA, unions and other organizations. The name of the program comes from the average level of an income-adjusted tax that would generate $9.4 billion annually. That amount of revenue could be used to eliminate tuition costs at all three of the state’s higher ed systems and return per pupil funding to levels last seen in 2000. As the article notes, “The California Democratic Party passed a resolution supporting the plan last week.” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a leading candidate for governor, has endorsed a plan that would instead offer two free years of community college.


9/8 – UC sues Trump administration over DACA decision (SacBee): Napolitano says of Dreamers, “They really represent the spirit of the American dream, and by its action, the administration has bashed those dreams.”

9/8 – Obama Official Who Created DACA Sues Trump To Protect It (HuffPo): The article notes around 4,000 undocumented students attend a UC campus.

9/8 – UC sues Trump administration over repeal of DACA (DailyCal): The article reports a rise in the number of students seeking mental health services since the decision was announced.

Press releases: UC Berkeley | UCOP Community Letter | UCOP Lawsuit

Other News

9/5 – ‘Free college’ is a new rallying cry in California (SacBee): The article notes that the state’s existing scholarship program is, by some measures, the most generous in the nation.

9/10 – Berkeley protests expensive for East Bay police departments (SFChronicle): UC spent $700,000 on police work associated with a cancelled appearance by Ann Coulter in April.

9/8 – Why Berkeley’s Battle Against White Supremacy Is Not About Free Speech (TheNation): The article, which conflates the city of Berkeley with UC Berkeley, argues that media coverage has dwelled upon Antifa violence without reporting the threats and harassments students face from various right wing activists.

9/7 – DeVos says Obama-era approach to campus sexual assault ‘failed’ (SJMN): DeVos has said the current approach “isn’t working,” and emphasized the plight of the wrongly accused, but details of how she hopes to change the policy are scant. UC President Janet Napolitano is quoted as saying:

“Changes to the Title IX policy announced today signal that the Trump administration aims to undo six years’ worth of federal enforcement designed to strengthen sexual violence protections on college campuses. This is extremely troubling. Even in the midst of unwelcome change and uncertainty, the university’s commitment to a learning environment free of sexual violence and sexual harassment will not waver. UC will continue its work to foster a culture of safety and security on all its campuses.”

9/6 – Dirks: Berkeley needs ‘serious debate’ on public-private future (THE): Berkeley’s ousted former chancellor argues the campus needs to consider becoming a private institution in order to survive its financial struggles.

9/6 – UCLA beats UC Berkeley as No. 1 public university in US, ranking reports (DailyCal): A UC spokesperson chalked up the change to natural fluctuations in research funding, which influence the ranking:

“(T)he primary reason for this year’s change in Berkeley’s position in this particular ranking was a decrease in the level of federal research funding that flowed into campus,” (UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan) Mogulof said in an email. “That funding fluctuates on an annual basis, and is determined by many factors beyond the University’s control or influence.”

Media Coverage 9/5/17

Media coverage of last week’s “anti-Marxist” protest and counter-protest in Berkeley was predictably all over the place, the result of no one participant or media organization being able to witness every sign, shove or provocation. Occurring so recently after the tragedy in Charlottesville, the scene was described as comparatively peaceful, though outlets emphasized the violent tactics of Antifa protestors. While the 4,000-strong crowd was described as mostly peaceful and right wing protesters scarce, accounts focused on the behavior of roughly 100 counter-protesters lumped under the Antifa banner.

In a piece of commentary in The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb argued the violence propagated by Antifa helps Trump’s movement. In his telling, the peaceful counter-protest by anti-racists was “fractured the moment that contingents identified as anarchists and Antifa radicals slipped into the crowd and began attacking right-wing protesters who had assembled there under the banner of free speech.”

Cobb goes so far as to argue that the actions of Antifa at the Berkeley protest validate Trump’s now infamous “many sides” comment in reference to Charlottesville. According to the writer:

But the images out of Berkeley—outnumbered right-wing protesters being pepper-sprayed by counter-demonstrators, one person lying on the ground while a black-clad group punched his face and torso—will be held up by many on the right as evidence that Trump was correct about the blame falling on “many sides.”

In their coverage, The Guardian noted the counter-protestors were largely peaceful, but also emphasized that Antifa members chased and pepper sprayed an alt-right organizer. Reporting by Mother Jones included footage of Antifa members jostling reporters. Meanwhile, a headline in the LA Times read “Violence by far-left protesters in Berkeley sparks alarm.” Local blog Berkeleyside placed more attention on the activity of peaceful protestors than other outlets, saying in an aside, “the moments of tension, and some sporadic violent clashes, were largely perpetrated by 100 or so anti-fascists, masked and clad in black, who swept into the park mid-afternoon en masse.”

A group of faith leaders wrote an op-ed in The New York Times criticizing the media for “ignoring the thousands who marched and protested peacefully” in Berkeley and other recent anti-racist actions. The piece suggests that violence should not be dismissed out-of-hand, noting its role in the civil rights movement, thought their claim is hedged behind the framing of self-defense.


8/29 – The Antifa Protests Are Helping Donald Trump (NewYorker): Cobb notes Antifa are not as abhorrent as racists, but nonetheless adds, “there is no escaping the fact that the elements that lashed out in Berkeley were both morally wrong and politically vacuous. ”

8/28 – After melees, Berkeley mayor asks Cal to cancel right-wing Free Speech Week (SFChronicle): Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin asked the campus to block a series of talks organized by a conservative student group that are set to include Milo Yiannopoulos. Arreguin argues the talks are likely to result in violence.

8/27 – Berkeley pro-Trump rally cancelled but tensions still flare between protesters (The Guardian): The article quotes a protestor who defended the Ohio man who killed a counter-protestor in Charlottesville.

8/28 – Violence by far-left protesters in Berkeley sparks alarm (LATimes): The article includes footage of Antifa members beating protestors.

8/27 – Live Updates: thousands come out against racism; far right a no-show (Berkeleyside): The article provides a sequential series of reports from the scene.

8/28 – In Berkeley, community comes out in force against hate, racism (Berkeleyside): The blog’s day-after summation of the event emphasizes that the vast majority of the 4,000 who gathered were peaceful counter-protestors.

9/1 – Op-Ed: Waiting for a Perfect Protest? (NYT): The authors note, “In spite of extensive training in nonviolent protest and civil disobedience, individuals and factions within the larger movement engaged in violent skirmishes, and many insisted on their right to physically defend themselves even while they proclaimed nonviolence as an ideal….”

9/1 – UC President Janet Napolitano wades into campus free speech debate (SFGate): Napolitano defends Christs’ decision to support the right of controversial speakers to appear on campus.

Other News

9/1 – Protest During Poli-Sci Meeting (InsideHigherEd): Silent protestors critiszied an academic presentation by Berkeley’s Emanuel S. Heller Professor of Law John Yoo. The protestors called out Yoo’s defense of torture. In 2003, while a member of the Bush administration, Yoo authored the so-called torture memos, which argued “enhanced interrogation” is legal.

8/29 – California Today: Courting First-Generation Students at U.C. (NYT): The article highlights the UC system’s efforts to support first-generation students. About 42 percent of the system’s undergraduate students are first-generation, though at Berkeley the figure is 28 percent.

8/31 – UC President Janet Napolitano blasts idea of ending DACA (SJMN): Napolitano took a strong defense of DACA, which President Trump has signaled he intends to end following a six-month delay.