By Nanette Asimov –
Conservative columnist Ben Shapiro, the latest right-wing pundit whom a Republican student organization has tried to bring to UC Berkeley, won’t be allowed to speak on the campus under the conditions the group has proposed, school officials said Wednesday.
The Berkeley College Republicans want to host Shapiro on Sept. 14 at a campus location able to accommodate 500 people. But campus officials say none is available on that day, unless the group is willing to pay a potential rental fee.
They say they may be able to find a venue of that size on another date, or a smaller venue on Sept. 14.
Campus officials previously refused to give the Republican group permission to host conservative commentator Ann Coulter in April because of the lack of an appropriate venue. Coulter threatened to show up anyway, but didn’t. The Berkeley College Republicans is also the group that invited Milo Yiannopoulos to campus in February, but his appearance was called off at the last minute when rioting broke out in Sproul Plaza outside the hall where he was to speak.
“Mr. Shapiro is welcome on our campus,” UC Berkeley officials wrote in a letter Wednesday to the Republican student group. They offered to meet with the students to figure out a time and place for Shapiro’s visit.
“Berkeley blocks Ben Shapiro!” came the indignant response in the form of a news release from the Berkeley College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation, a conservative speakers bureau. “Berkeley’s inability to find a lecture hall more than two months in advance is laughable.”
The groups have sued UC Berkeley and University of California President Janet Napolitano over the Coulter affair. Spencer Brown, a spokesman for Young America’s Foundation, said Wednesday that UC Berkeley officials were engaging in “blatantly anti-free speech and unconstitutional actions” against conservative speakers.
UC Berkeley officials told the Republican student group that campus police would need to conduct a security assessment that “might rule out certain hours for the event” — an indication that officials may not allow Shapiro to speak during evening hours.
Shapiro, a 33-year-old graduate of Harvard Law School, is not given to the type of outrageous, attention-grabbing statements that have polarized fans and foes of Yiannopoulos and Coulter. But like them, he supports President Trump. He uses his Web-based “Ben Shapiro Show” and other online columns to support the president’s policies, criticize the “self-righteous media” and to wade into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict firmly on the side of Israel.
Shapiro says it’s an “outright lie” that Palestinians want peace in the Middle East, and calls the two-state solution “stupid.”
As at many college campuses across the country, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a live wire at UC Berkeley, with long arguments common between students who are passionate on both sides.
Campus spokesman Dan Mogulof emphasized the willingness of UC Berkeley to work with the students to find a time and place for Shapiro to speak.
“The way to do this is not by press release,” Mogulof said, “but by sitting down together.”