Media Coverage 10/9/17

Last week the student group responsible for the flubbed “Free Speech Week” asked the US Department of Justice to investigate UC Berkeley’s administration for what they claim is retaliatory behavior. The group’s lawyer alleges in a complaint that Chancellor Christ threatened conservative students with a criminal investigation based on comments she made in reference to hateful messages that appeared in chalk and on posters ahead of the planned event. Berkeley Patriot, the student organization, interpreted Christ’s insistence that the campus would investigate the messaging as a veiled threat at conservative students broadly. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Campus spokesman Dan Mogulof called the allegations ‘utterly unfounded’ and said the complaint ‘seems like a desperate attempt to avoid any responsibility for the collapse of the events.'” In an op-ed, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of Berkeley’s law school, praised Christ’s handling of the “Free Speech Week” controversy. In the op-ed, Chemerinsky wrote:

Be clear, if Chancellor Christ were to prevent particular speakers because of their offensive message, she would get sued. The speakers would win and get an injunction to allow them to speak. The campus would have to pay their attorney fees and perhaps money damages as well. The excluded speakers would be victims and martyrs. And nothing would be gained because they would get to speak anyway.

Overall, media coverage of Berkeley and debates about free speech on campus were quieted as attention once again turned to gun control following the tragedy in Las Vegas. Nonetheless, an event at the College of William & Mary sparked debate. At an event focused on the First Amendment, a member of the ACLU’s Virginia arm was prevented from speaking by Black Lives Matter protestors who were critical of the organization for its commitment to defending the First Amendment rights of white supremacists. An op-ed in the New York Times struck a sympathetic but critical tone, noting, “someone should tell (the student protestors) that if the principle of free speech is curtailed, those with the least power are most likely to feel the chill.”

“Free Speech Week” Fallout

10/4 – Conservative Berkeley students ask US Justice Department to launch investigation (SFChronicle): The article notes that Berkeley Patriot claims they cancelled the event due to the perceived threat of an investigation.

You can read the complaint here.

10/3 – Op-Ed: Why UC Berkeley was right not to ban Milo, and other lessons from Free Speech Week (SacBee): Chemerinsky also dismissed Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ assertion that free speech is imperiled on campus, saying such events as “Free Speech Week” are intentional spectacles.

10/3 – Op-Ed: Millions for security, cuts to critical theory program underscore need for transparency (DailyCal): Two doctoral students bemoan cuts to the Program in Critical Theory and the obscure decision-making that led to the downsizing. The authors contrast the decision with the public affirmation the university made to fund security for the recent string of right-wing appearances.

9/20 – UC system will chip in at least $300,000 to help Berkeley pay security costs for controversial speakers (LATimes): In a news item this blog originally missed, the UC system chipped in $300,000 to help Berkeley pay its recent security bill.

10/5 – Antifa stalking UC Berkeley’s conservative students, group says (FoxNews): Berkeley College Republican members have had their locations Tweeted by Antifa-affiliated accounts.

Free Speech

10/6 – Op-Ed: The Worst Time for the Left to Give Up on Free Speech (NYT): The author contends, “When disputes about free speech are adjudicated not according to broad principles but according to who has power, the left will mostly lose.”

10/5 – ACLU Speaker Shouted Down at William & Mary (IHE): Students reportedly chanted “ACLU, you protect Hitler, too.”



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 8/28/17

Berkeley Protest on Aug. 27

As of early evening Sunday, press reports indicate clashes between right-wing protestors and counter-protesters in downtown Berkeley turned violent, with police using tear gas to disperse the crowds. Those on the right claim they gathered to promote free speech and counter what they perceive to be the spread of Marxism in the US. Counter protestors have organized around a desire to reject what they argue is a right-wing movement centered around racism. Early reports suggest violence surged when antifa protestors jumped a barrier separating the two sides. A full report on media coverage from the protest will be included in next week’s summary.

More audits, Christ center stage, and the right-wing’s fall plans

A state audit deeply critical of UC’s payroll system was released Thursday. The report highlights not only that costs have trebled beyond projections to nearly $1 billion, but that the time to completion has been extended by five years. UC Path was intended to upgrade disparate HR systems across the system’s campuses and save money by eliminating the need for duplicate positions, but the audit says such savings “will not materialize.”

A few days earlier, the state auditor released another report that found UC failed to follow its policies regarding replacing workers with cheaper contract employees. Of 31 contracts the audit reviewed, two were found to violate rules requiring the system to provide justification for any contracts that will displace existing university employees.

The week before the two audits brought negative attention to UC, back-to-school coverage of Berkeley cheered the campus’s new leader, Carol Christ. The San Francisco Chronicle focused on the financial challenges facing Christ and the recently announced plan to reduce Berkeley’s $110 million deficit. The article notes Christ’s long tenure at the campus offers its advantages: “Many faculty appreciate that, and say she’s an insider who understands UC Berkeley’s culture and politics far better than the outsiders who preceded her.” However, the article foreshadows what may be a controversial decision to “help athletics pay the seismic retrofit portion of its stadium debt.”

In its take on Christ, the Mercury-News emphasized her status as the first woman to lead the campus, one rocked by a string of recent sexual harassment scandals. A profile in the LA Times painted a flattering portrait of Christ greeting newly-arrived freshman as they moved into Cal. The article notes her myriad professional achievements but goes on to add, “But it is her personable style, her penchant to listen and learn, and her natural instinct to connect that draw people in. Those qualities have helped stir new optimism and excitement on a campus battered by financial woesfree speech controversiessexual harassment scandals and a leadership crisis under her predecessor.” In an interview with Times Higher Education, Christ discussed the campus’s financial challenges and expressed pessimism that state funding will ever return to its historic norm.

Meanwhile, while plans to bring right-wing provocateurs Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter back to campus have circulated for months, the details remain murky, according to the Chronicle of Higher Ed. The student group reportedly behind the invitation, Berkeley Patriot, may also be attempting to bring Breitbart editor and former Trump administration official Stephen Bannon to Berkeley. In an editorial ahead of Sunday’s protests, the Daily Cal criticized campus and city leaders for urging counter-protesters to stay away from the right-wing rally in downtown Berkeley. The editorial cites the recent right-wing protest in Boston which was peacefully drowned out by a sizable counter-protest.

Meanwhile, as happens annually, UC’s salary information was made public. Two former coaches earned nearly $3 million. On a happier note, UC President Janet Napolitano published an op-ed touting the system’s welcoming of 30,000 first-generation incoming students. Beyond urging other universities to reach out to first-generation students, she notes policies UC has implemented to attract and retain such students.


8/22 – New UC audit raises more questions about Office of the President (SJMN): The article on the contract audit notes a lawsuit is in the works related to the violation of protocol.

8/24 – UC’s new payroll system will cost at least $200 million more than expected (LATimes): The article notes, “As she did in that stinging audit earlier this year, (State Auditor Elaine) Howle on Thursday accused the president’s office of leaving the UC Board of Regents in the dark on the problems.”

8/24 – UC ripped again in latest audit that finds bungling of payroll upgrade (SFGate): The article notes Napolitano pointed out she arrived two years after UC Path was initiated.

8/22 – University of California system didn’t follow its own contracting rules, state audit finds (LATimes): A UC spokesperson, noting that only a few contracts reviewed violated the rules, said the contracts “generally adhered to the Office of the President’s contracting policy.”

For a copy of the full UC Path audit, click here. For a copy of the contract audit, click here.

The Right Returns

8/24 – Details on Berkeley Free-Speech Event Are Hazy, but Campus Readies for Another Fight (Chronicle): Students involved in Berkeley Patriot refused to confirm details to the paper.

8/22 – When white supremacists flood the city, Berkeley should not back down (DailyCal): The student paper argues:

“But recent events show how a bloodbath can be avoided, and it’s not by staying away. In Boston, one week after Charlottesville, tens of thousands of counter-protesters drowned out the planned alt-right rally (dubbed a “free speech” protest, which nobody’s buying). And by 1 p.m., rally attendees had slunk away before they even made the speeches they had planned, and the Washington Post reported that no one was injured.”

Carol Christ Profiles

8/15 – New UC Berkeley leader takes over as school seeks creative money sources (SFChronicle): BFA Chair Michael Burawoy is quoted as saying, “She’s been very impressive. She is so prepared to talk with everybody.”

8/15 – Meet UC Berkeley’s groundbreaking new chancellor (SJMN): The article emphasizes Christ’s long tenure at Berkeley and provides a good overview of her career and recent campus controversies.

8/18 – UC Berkeley’s new chancellor brings optimism — and a world record — to an embattled campus (LATimes): The article says Christ is planning “open hours for students, community-building events, a new blog and visits to students, staff and faculty.”

8/19 – Berkeley chancellor to focus on funding and rebuilding community (TimesHigherEducation): Christ told the website, ““I will certainly do everything I can to advocate that state funding stays stable. [But] understanding the state budget in the way that I do, I don’t think it’s likely it’s going to go back to its former levels when it was much higher.”

8/18 – UC Berkeley wants students to know it’s OK to fail (SJMN): Recognizing how many students may challenged for the first time at Cal, the campus is doing what it can to help students face and grow from setbacks.

Other News

8/21 – Here are the 5 highest-paid UC Berkeley employees last year (DailyCal): Berkeley’s former mens basketball and football coaches led the list.

8/23 – Op-Ed: How UC is Shaping the Next Generation with First Generation (HuffPo): The article notes ways UC has offered targeted support to first-generation students, including special housing at UCLA.