The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) is set for a federal lawsuit if it does not make sure that the conservative commentator, Ann Coulter, gets a proper time and place to speak on April 27.
According to the Associated Press (via Washington Post), the students who invited Coulter to speak at Berkeley are threatening to sue the university based on their constitutional right to free speech.
“It is a sad day indeed when the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, is morphing before our eyes into the cemetery of free speech on college campuses,” wrote Harmeet Dhillon, who represents the Berkeley College Republicans, in letters sent last Friday to Berkeley’s Interim Vice Chancellor Stephen Sutton and chief attorney Christopher Patti.
— SFGATE (@SFGate) April 21, 2017
Last Tuesday, Berkeley officials abruptly cancelled her speech on April 27 based on security intelligence that found that Coulter, her audience and expected protesters may be in grave danger if the event proceeds next Thurday.
However, two days later, the school reversed course on Thursday to reschedule the event for May 2 at an an “appropriate, protectable” venue instead.
Coulter has rejected the May 2 date, saying she and her security detail could not arrange to be on campus on that day. She also tweeted that there will be no classes on the “Dead Week” that the new date falls on.
“Dead Week” refers to the “reading/ review/ recitation period” in preparation for final exams.
Campus events nationwide involving conservative figures like Coulter have evoked tension and sometimes violent clashes with liberal-leaning student bodies who believe racial demagoguery should be opposed as aggressively as possible.
When alt-right icon, Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at Berkeley in February, the protests by some 1,5000 turned to chaos, as windows were smashed and firecrackers were shot into buildings.
Celebration after Milo at Berkeley was canceled pic.twitter.com/7tW2ka8qcZ
— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) February 2, 2017
The violence incited by Yiannopoulos was also cited by university officials as the reason to cancel Coulter’s upcoming speech.
Such violence have been condemned even by liberal politicians like Senator Bernie Sanders, who says Ann Coulter should be able to speak her mind without fear or violence although he finds her “outrageous – to my mind, off the wall”.
To shut her down or prevent her from going to Berkeley is not the answer, a view that reflects the other camps within the liberals which believe that disruptions are misguided and counterproductive no matter how how offensive the speaker’s views are.
“To me, it’s a sign of intellectual weakness,” Sanders told The Huffington Post.
“What are you afraid of ― her ideas? Ask her the hard questions,” Sanders said.
“Confront her intellectually. Booing people down, or intimidating people, or shutting down events, I don’t think that that works in any way.”
Coulters has vowed that she will speak on April 27 anyway, regardless of the cancellation.
“So I’m planning on speaking on the 27th as scheduled. Maybe they will arrest me,” she said in an email to Reuters.