Security for Ben Shapiro’s speech cost more than $600,000.00!
The University of California at Berkeley’s new chancellor, Carol Christ, has done a democratic service by defending free speech on campus. But who would have thought that protecting speech would be so expensive in the place where the Free Speech Movement began in the 1960s?
The former Breitbart writer Ben Shapiro spoke unimpeded Thursday night on campus, but the university had to spend $600,000 to provide adequate security. The university relied on officers from all 10 campuses in the University of California system. Before the speech, Berkeley’s City Council rescinded a ban on the police use of pepper spray for the first time in two decades. Berkeley largely kept the peace, though nine protesters were arrested, including four who allegedly carried banned weapons and one suspected of battering a cop.
The security costs will grow later this month when the university hosts Free Speech Week. The arriviste Milo Yiannopolous claimed in a news release that the lineup will include Steve Bannon, Ann Coulter, Pamela Gellar and other controversial speakers he hand-picked. Already, more than 200 faculties are calling for a boycott, claiming the event imperils students’ “physical and mental safety.
We wish Berkeley’s students were hearing from conservatives who seek to persuade more than merely provoke like the Milo Gang. The Berkeley Patriots, the student group behind Free Speech Week, have yet to provide Ms. Christ with signed speaker contracts or the basic information campus police requested, though the deadline is fast approaching. The success of Mr. Shapiro’s speech showed Ms. Christ’s good faith, and the Berkeley Patriots need to show some mutual respect.
Ms. Christ has said she sees the cost of security as a worthwhile investment, though she laments that $600,000 per event is “certainly not sustainable.” Berkeley has an operating deficit, and we wonder if students who are unwilling to entertain contrarian arguments realize they may be raising their own tuition. Or perhaps they’re attending on federal student loans they never plan to repay.
How far we’ve come in 50 years when the New Left began the Free Speech Movement to fight the establishment. Now the not-so-new left wants to use violence to shut down free speech no matter the cost. Ms. Christ deserves thanks for standing up to the thugs.
Appeared in the September 16, 2017, print edition of the Wall St Journal