- Associated Press
Thursday, July 20, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - University of California, Berkeley is now offering to waive a venue fee for former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro to speak on campus on the date Berkeley College Republicans requested, school officials said Thursday afternoon.

New UC Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ made the decision out of a commitment to free speech, university spokesman Dan Mogulof said.

Campus Republicans requested a room that could accommodate 500 people for guest speaker Shapiro on Sept. 14, Mogulof said. He said earlier Thursday that all venues large enough and free of charge to student organizations were already booked for Sept. 14, the only proposed date the group offered.

“The event will either take place in a smaller venue or the university will foot the bill for a larger venue that’s available,” Mogulof said. “All the details will have to be worked out with them, but I’m optimistic.”

Berkeley College Republicans vice president Naweed Tahmas did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment Thursday evening.

The waived fee depends on which venue the two agree to.

Despite the waived fee, the student group will still need to pay for basic security costs per university policy, school officials said.

Tahmas said in a statement earlier Thursday that universities have a responsibility to “expose students to a breadth of different ideological views.”

“UC Berkeley has solidified itself as an ideological echo chamber,” Tahmas wrote.

Shapiro uses his web-based “The Ben Shapiro Show” and online columns to support President Donald Trump’s policies and criticize the “self-righteous media.”

Previous failed efforts to host conservative speakers Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter led to protests that drew national attention to the university known as the birthplace of the free-speech movement.

In February, right-wing provocateur Yiannopoulos’ scheduled campus appearance was called off at the last minute when rioting broke out outside the hall where he was to speak. Protesters smashed windows on campus and set fires outside the student union.

Campus Republicans tried again to host a conservative speaker in April by inviting Coulter to the Berkeley campus, but the event never took place. The Republican student group is suing UC Berkeley over Coulter’s canceled appearance.

“UC Berkeley’s pattern of suppressing conservative events and speakers through viewpoint-discriminatory restrictions is the basis for the lawsuit,” Tahmas said.

Mogulof said the lawsuit hasn’t affected the school’s commitment to work with students to bring any speaker to campus, regardless of their beliefs.

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