(Photo: California State University, Los Angeles)

(Photo: California State University, Los Angeles)

California State University at Los Angeles officials have abruptly canceled an event featuring conservative speaker Ben Shapiro after initially attempting to charge a sponsoring student group more than $600 due to “controversial” content in a speech titled, “When Diversity Becomes a Problem.”

“Public universities should encourage, not stifle, the free exchange of ideas,” said David Hacker, a senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom.

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Ben Shapiro

The student group, Young Americans for Freedom, had arranged for Shapiro to speak about diversity at the Tuesday event.

Hacker said YAF has “every bit as much right to hold this event as any other student group does, and the university can’t stop that because it prefers to water down the speaker’s message with other viewpoints that officials find more palatable to their own political views.”

“The courts have made it clear,” he said, “that university officials cannot deem an event ‘controversial’ and then weigh down students with burdensome fees to engage in constitutionally protected free speech just because some people consider it controversial, but it’s even worse to take that a step further and try to silence the speech altogether.”

After hearing about the event, sociology professor Robert Weide called the YAF students “white supremacists” and invited them to fight him.

In response, the university notified the students that because of Shapiro’s “controversial” subject matter, they would have to pay more than $620 for security officers.

Concerned individuals may email California State University, Los Angeles, President William Covino or Executive Vice President Jose Gomez about this issue or call them at (323)343-3030 extension 3-3030. 

ADF defended the students, arguing in a letter to the university that such fees aren’t allowed.

“The university’s assessment of a security fee for YAF’s February 25 event is unconstitutional because administrators assessed the fee based on the viewpoint of YAF’s speech and based on the potential negative reactions of listeners,” ADF said.

ADF argues the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that speech “cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.”

The school policy of assessing the fees, therefore, violates the Constitution.

“By requiring YAF to pay security fees based on the potential reaction of students who are planning a counter-protest and a faculty member who is proposing physical violence, the university is using unbridled discretion inherent in the security at campus events policy to impose an unconstitutional heckler’s veto,” the letter said.

The university, which declined to respond to a WND request for comment, responded not to ADF but to the students.

An email from university President William Covino told student Mark Kahanding that the event was canceled.

Instead, he said, Shapiro could speak at another time when his voice would be tempered by speakers selected by the school.

“I have decided that it will be best for our campus community if we reschedule Ben Shapiro’s appearance for a later date, so that we can arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity,” Kahanding ordered.

He claimed his decision to stop Shapiro’s speech and bring in other speakers “will better represent our university’s dedication to the free exchange of ideas and the value of considering multiple viewpoints.”

Fox Business reported, “[Shapiro] and YAF intend to hold the speech on Thursday despite the CSULA ban and threaten to sue if they are blocked from the auditorium where the speech was scheduled to take place.”

“The campus fascists have taken over,” Shapiro told Breitbart News. “I pay taxes in the state of California; I’m paying for these whiny children to be indoctrinated by radical leftists. For CSULA to pretend that they’re trying to provide balance isn’t just stupid, it’s insultingly stupid. I am the balance, and they’re too afraid to let me speak. These aren’t diversity warriors. They’re jackbooted thugs. If they want to call the men with guns to shut down free speech, they’ll demonstrate clearly just who they are. I’ll be there on Thursday. See you there, snowflakes.”

ADF said the student organization may end up taking legal action.

“The First Amendment does not require YAF to consolidate its viewpoint with others,” Hacker noted. “The number of events on university campuses with speakers who have different viewpoints from Mr. Shapiro’s and YAF’s are plentiful. No need or legitimate basis exists for canceling YAF’s event.”

According to Fox Business, “Covina did not cancel liberal focused speeches which include counter culture radical Angela Davis and Time Wise, who will lecture students on ‘Exploring Whiteness’ on Wednesday February 24th, or Serene Khader on the topic, ‘Do Muslim Women Really Need Freedom?”

In 2014, CSULA hosted socialist academic Cornel West, who spoke on the “falsity of post-racialism.”

YAF, a registered student organization at the university, had followed the university’s policies and procedures for planning the event.

Concerned individuals may email California State University, Los Angeles, President William Covino or Executive Vice President Jose Gomez about this issue or call them at (323)343-3030 extension 3-3030. 

 

 

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