California State University – Los Angeles has revised its policies and practices that were intended to block Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro’s speech last year as a result of a lawsuit filed by Young Americans for Freedom, Shapiro and others.
The Alliance Defending Freedom represented the plaintiffs. Senior Counsel Casey Mattox, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, stated,
Today’s college students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, commissioners, and voters. That’s why it’s so important that public universities model the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students. It should disturb everyone when any university communicates to a generation that the Constitution doesn’t matter. This agreement will pave the way to more freedom for students and speakers at Cal State L.A.
As ADF explained:
In addition to dropping unconstitutional security charges that are based on the viewpoint being expressed at an event, the university has agreed that it will not cancel or refuse to schedule a speaker based on their viewpoint and will enforce the university’s Free Expression Policy in a viewpoint-neutral manner. That policy prohibits actions that would block or disrupt access to any event on campus. Because the university opposed Shapiro’s viewpoint, it had refused to enforce the policy when school officials allowed protesters to block access to the event.
Because the university agreed to make the changes, the plaintiffs dismissed their lawsuit.
The university attempted to shut down Shapiro’s speech, scheduled by Young Americans for Freedom for February 25, 2016, and co-sponsored by the Young America’s Foundation. First University officials charged the group $621.50 for security and then canceled the speech. Shapiro went anyway, despite the fact that some professors helped incite a mob to block entry to the venue where Shapiro was speaking. The near-riot that followed saw students listening to the speech and Shapiro himself trapped inside the venue while protesters blocked the exits and triggered the fire alarm.
ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, who argued before a federal court on behalf of YAF, stated, “Instead of playing favorites toward some while shutting out others, universities should provide a level playing field so that all students can engage freely in the marketplace of ideas. Cal State L.A.’s acknowledgment that the university can’t charge fees for speech it labels ‘controversial’ is a recognition that the prior policy violated the students’ freedom of speech. The university’s changes should enable students to organize future events in a safe and civil environment.”
Shapiro added, “Last year’s near-riot at Cal State L.A. was a travesty with regard to free speech. I’m excited that we were able to come to an agreement with them to protect free speech in the future, and I look forward to coming to the campus soon to speak again. Hopefully this time, we can have an honest, open, and productive discussion rather than violence and chaos from those who disagree.”
Hopefully this time, we can have an honest, open, and productive discussion rather than violence and chaos from those who disagree.”
Young America’s Foundation President Ron Robinson echoed, “We hope the university’s affirmation of its free speech policies will help ensure that they will truly apply to all individuals and organizations at Cal State L.A. and not just leftist professors and organizations.”
YAF and Shapiro are attempting to schedule another speech at the university sometime in 2017.