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UC Berkeley Changes Course And Offers To Host Ann Coulter Speech


Ann Coulter speaks during Politicon in Los Angeles in 2015.

Ann Coulter speaks during Politicon in Los Angeles in 2015.

Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

Despite the decision of University of California, Berkeley officials to cancel conservative commentator Ann Coulter’s planned speech for April 27, Coulter and organizers are promising she will still find a way to speak at the campus.

Early Wednesday, UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton emailed a message to organizers that “given currently active security threats, it is not possible to assure that the event could be held successfully.”

The administrators write that they “have been unable to find a safe and suitable venue” based on the university police department’s safety assessment.

They note in particular the riots that engulfed the campus back in February when campus Republicans invited the right-wing self-described provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to speak. University officials canceled that speech, and blamed “masked agitators” for smashing windows and starting fires.

But Coulter tweeted that she still intends to speak at “Berkeley next Thursday.”

“She’s definitely coming to Berkeley on the 27th,” Pranav Jandhyala, one of the event’s organizers, tells NPR. “We’re looking into alternative venues.”

He says he was “extremely disappointed” by the university’s decision. He adds that students have half-joked that Coulter may end up speaking on steps at the university’s Sproul Plaza.

“Instructing Berkeley student group to spare no expense in renting my speaking venue - part of my legal damages,” Coulter wrote on Twitter.

“This is as clear-cut a case as it gets that public universities are using taxpayer dollars to shut down conservative speech, while allowing liberal speech only,” writes Spencer Brown of Young America’s Foundation in a statement. The group calls itself the “principal outreach organization of the Conservative Movement” with a goal of exposing young people to conservative “principles.”

The planned Ann Coulter speech was a collaboration between YAF, the Berkeley College Republicans and BridgeUSA, formerly known as BridgeCal.

BridgeUSA is a nonpartisan organization that aims to “create a dialogue” and challenge people with “opinions you disagree with,” says Jandhyala, the founder and president.

Coulter had planned to speak on the issue of immigration.

Jandhyala defended Coulter’s invitation, saying it helps create a “conversation on this issue of illegal immigration that needs to happen.” BridgeUSA has invited speakers of different political persuasions to campus, including a recent discussion with former Bill Clinton White House staffer Maria Echaveste.

Jandhyala says the majority of Coulter’s speaking fee, $17,000, was being paid by YAF, with $3,000 being paid by BridgeUSA.

Brown of YAF wrote that the university had initially imposed “a series of ridiculous requirements” on Coulter’s speech, including that she speak in the afternoon, and that organizers limit the audience to students and delay the announcement of the venue until close to the event time.

Coulter says she agreed to the conditions but the university still called the speech off.

The conservative Coulter, who frequently attacks liberals, was bound to draw ire at the notably liberal college campus. She’s the author of several books, including Adios, America; In Trump We Trust; and Never Trust a Liberal Over 3 — Especially a Republican.

University administrators write that they “remain firmly committed” to finding another time for Coulter to speak on campus. “We expect most Mondays and Tuesdays in September during the day should work,” they write.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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