BERKELEY, Calif. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A conservative student group has achieved a victory in a legal battle with the University of California, Berkeley.
After a year-long debacle in the Ninth Circuit, conservative group the Young America's Foundation (YAF) has reached a settlement with UC Berkeley about the prohibitive security costs when conservative speakers come to campus.
Conservatives are hailing it as a victory because the university will no longer require student organizations to pay for security.
YAF declared on Dec. 3, "This landmark victory for free expression means UC Berkeley can no longer wantonly treat conservative students as second-class members of its community while ignoring the guaranteed protections of the First Amendment."
"No longer can UC Berkeley place a 3:00 p.m. curfew on conservative speech," YAF continued. "No longer can UC Berkeley ban advertisements for YAF-sponsored campus lectures. And no longer can UC Berkeley relegate conservative speakers to remote or inconvenient lecture halls on campus while giving leftist speakers access to preferred locations."
In the settlement, the university gave $70,000 to YAF to help cover the organization's attorney fees.
Harmeet K. Dhillon, the attorney for YAF, told LifeZette on Monday, "This is a landmark free speech victory for all students at UC Berkeley."
"I hope it opens the door to student groups, advocacy groups, and lawyers all over the country to increase liberty on our campuses, where much of our future is shaped," Dhillon added.
She also said, "No longer will heckler's vetos be permitted to tax and silence unpopular speech on campus. We expect to see this model eventually adopted at many other campuses."
YAF spokesperson Spencer Brown opined, "YAF's landmark victory for free expression — long squelched by Berkeley's scheming administrators who weaponized flawed policies to target conservatives — shows that the battle for freedom undertaken by YAF on campuses nationwide is a necessary one."
Even though YAF and other conservatives are trumpeting the settlement as a victory for free speech on college campuses, some are calling it a victory for the university.
For example, campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said in a recent statement, "Given that this outcome is all but indistinguishable from what a courtroom victory would have looked like, we see this as the least expensive path to successful resolution of this lawsuit."
Likewise, UC Berkeley's student newspaper reported on Monday, "The settlement does not require the university to concede that any of the plaintiffs' claims of previous viewpoint discrimination have any basis in fact."
In February 2017, conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley; but the event had to be canceled as far-left protesters took part in destructive riots around the campus. Yiannopoulos was able to return for a brief speech as part of a "Free Speech Week" the following semester; but this too faced large-scale protests staged by left-wing activists.
The issue of free speech for conservatives on college campuses is a contentious issue in recent years. For at least the past few decades, academia has had a notorious leftist bias, often leading conservative-minded college students to feel isolated from the campus community at large.