The ACLU of Northern California submitted comments today in response to UC Berkeley’s draft policy requiring that students give the University eight weeks’ notice and comply with a number of other administrative burdens in order to hold an event with over 200 people in attendance.
We applaud the University’s stated commitment to the First Amendment. The commitment to free speech is nowhere more important than on our public university campuses, where the free exchange of ideas fosters knowledge, individual growth, and the power to organize for a better world. We welcome the opportunity to comment on the draft policy. We also appreciate that the University has a responsibility to its students and staff to keep the campus safe.
However, we have serious concerns about how this draft policy will impact speech on campus. The administrative burdens imposed on “major events” will undoubtedly deter some from organizing events, and will limit students’ ability to schedule notable speakers to address breaking news. Authors on book tours, for instance, often do not have flexible schedules months in advance. Activists and thought leaders responding to urgent civil liberties violations do not have the luxury of delay. Students have the right to organize events to educate their peers and the community, even on short notice. Among other recommendations, we urge the University to adopt a clear public waiver process to provide more flexibility in their major events policy.
- ACLU of Northern California Legal Director Christine Sun