At Berkeley, a canceled speech spurs a renewed battle over free speech

Citation metadata

Author: Chris Quintana
Date: May 5, 2017
From: The Chronicle of Higher Education(Vol. 63, Issue 35)
Publisher: Chronicle of Higher Education, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,083 words
Lexile Measure: 1310L

Document controls

Main content

Article Preview :

Berkeley, Calif.

In April the conservative commentator and firebrand Ann Coulter insisted that she would be speaking at the University of California at Berkeley, over administrators' objections that the event wouldn't be safe. But after heavy posturing, a legal challenge, and plenty of Berkeley bashing, Ms. Coulter dropped her plans.

Last week she said on Twitter and to news outlets that she was concerned about the event's safety, and she blamed the lack of security on the university. The student groups who had helped book the speech had pulled their support for the event because of the same concerns.

"It's sickening when a radical thuggish institution like Berkeley can so easily snuff out the cherished American right to free speech," Ms. Coulter said on Twitter.

Berkeley officials responded sharply, saying that they had tried to work with Ms. Coulter and that the university supported her right to speak in a safe venue, but that they needed more time to find the appropriate space.

The mostly conservative students who organized the event, though they disagreed among themselves, split the blame between Ms. Coulter and the university.

The kerfuffle and subsequent recriminations show just how charged the political atmosphere is at Berkeley, known as the cradle of the free-speech movement on college campuses.

And the sequence highlights lessons that other colleges might have to learn in order to both honor their dedication to free speech and protect the safety of students and speakers.

Among those lessons: Free-speech fights may never end. Despite Ms. Coulter's decision to stand down, the university was still bracing for potential violence on April 27, the day of...

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A495033267